It is my great pleasure to welcome back Pam Ripling. You may recall the terrific post she wrote for me last year about the connection between photography and writing. That post also introduced you to her mystery novel Point Surrender.
Pam's latest lighthouse book, Cape Seduction, is a little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a little bit spooky. When I read Sandy's recent review (at You've Gotta Read This!), I decided not only that I wanted to read this novel but that it'd be perfect for October and Halloween. Here's the publisher's summary:
After being the backdrop for 1948’s critically acclaimed tragic romance, Cape Seduction, Northern California’s Dragon Rock Lighthouse sat shuttered and abandoned for decades—and it also happened to be the last place up-and-coming Hollywood starlet Darla Foster was seen alive.
When photojournalist Rebecca Burke locks horns with Los Angeles attorney Matt Farralone while trying to gain access to the derelict off-shore beacon, she encounters the spirit of the sassy, once-promising Oscar-hopeful Foster, and uncovers a 60-year-old secret that sets her world on end.
Today Pam is going to talk about an aspect of writing that can help create an unforgettable story. Let's take a look.
That sounds like a lead-in for a discussion of the paranormal. The vampire, the orc, the ogre from the swamp. No, I'm talking about something a little more . . . theoretical, if you will. Specifically, in fiction, where setting is as much a character as the humans populating the story.
Maybe character isn't exactly the right word, but it suits my purpose. The setting can be a strong element in a novel. A piece of the story so vital to the tale, its removal would render the work irrevocably unrecognizable. Just like we understand that the antagonist might be something other than a person, so too can a place, a locale, a surrounding be a player. I'm going to throw out some works that illustrate my point.
In 1957's Spirit of St. Louis, James Stewart plays Charles Lindbergh on his famous flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He spends many hours alone in the cockpit, speaking out loud to the airplane as he loses his way, nods off, nearly crashes, and recovers. The single-engine Ryan aircraft becomes a character in the story. Indeed, Mr. Lindbergh himself is quoted as saying, "It’s like a living creature, gliding along smoothly, happily, as though a successful flight means as much to it as to me, as though we shared our experiences together, each feeling beauty, life, and death as keenly, each dependent on the other’s loyalty."
Did Margaret Mitchell consider the compelling element of the Civil War as an entity, the lead-in, duration, and aftermath of which played a huge role in her epic novel Gone with the Wind? Jay Anson's The Amityville Horror: A True Story certainly portrayed the home occupied by him and his wife as a horrific character, fraught with paranormal activity and not unlike Stephen King's Overlook Hotel in The Shining. These are but a few examples where settings can have as great an effect on a story as its main characters.
Agatha Christie made good use of setting in her Murder on the Orient Express. Without the train, Poirot's mystery would derail!
Some of you already know about my deep fascination with lighthouses. To me, the eerie disquiet of the abandoned St. George Reef Lighthouse in northern California provided just such a character for Cape Seduction. An immovable character locked in place and continuously assaulted by angry seas and heartless weather, Dragon Rock (as it's called in the novel) harbors a sixty-year-old secret while waiting for someone to return. The lighthouse is patient; it's stood for 130 years and will stand for many, many more. It has a role to play, as the other characters eventually discover.
While researching the off-shore beacon that lies at the center of Cape Seduction, I had the delightfully good fortune to speak on the telephone with a retired U.S. Coastguardsman who shared many tales of life inside the lighthouse. His descriptions of the atmosphere within the walls of St. George made the setting come alive for me, allowing me to "see" the tower as a character in my story.
For more about the writing of Cape Seduction and the research behind it, click over to Legendary Lighthouses.
But first, tell me about books or films where you see the setting as part of the cast.
Thank you, Candace, for having me back. This is always a favorite stop on my annual blog tour. Tomorrow, I'm at Alyssa's Area, where I'll be delving into the world of young adult fiction. Don't forget to enter my contest, celebrating the release of Cape Seduction. Winner gets free books! (Click on my photos to see them larger.)
No, thank you, Pam, for another fabulous guest post. I agree that setting and inanimate objects can become so important to a story that they seem to come alive. Here's my example: In the book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt the wind seemed to act as one of the principal characters. (Click the link for my review.)
Pam Ripling, who also writes as Anne Carter, is a self-proclaimed Lighthouse Nut and author of Beacon Street Mysteries Cape Seduction and Point Surrender, in paperback or for your Kindle; also for your Nook, iPhone, Sony eReader, and other formats at Omnilit. Visit Pam/Anne at Beacon Street Books.