Alana Woods legal thriller "Automaton" is set in Australia, with 49 references to Canberra. Her second book, Imbroglio, does not mention Canberra, but is set in Australia (21 references). There is mention of the Defence Department, ASIO and the National Crime Authority.
When working on policy at HQ Australian Defence Force, I was once criticized by a US journalist who said that if I could not even spell "Defense" properly, I should not be writing policy. I wonder if for an international audience, it would be better if Alana set the novels in the USA, or in an anonymous city.
Alana is also the author of the non-fiction "25 essential writing tips: guide to writing good fiction". In this she points out that modern readers are impatient with long descriptions of location.
Hi Tom, Alana Woods, the author here. I thought I'd comment on your query whether it would have been better to locate my stories in the USA or anonymously because I'm writing for an international audience.
Do you advise US authors to set their stories in unspecific locations if they are writing for international audiences?
A very real disincentive is that I am not familiar with the US so couldn't convincingly write about it. I set my stories in Australia because that's where I live and I know the locations I write about.
Unless an author is writing about imaginary worlds I would think they all face that same problem.
As a reader I find the fact that books are set in other parts of the world to be one of the attractions to reading? I also find the language differences, such as spelling, to be of interest. I imagine most readers would feel the same--as evidenced by comments from reviewers of my novels.
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on them.
And of course Australian fiction is viable. Why shouldn't it be? Some truly great authors were and are Australians who have written classics set in Australia.
Alana Woods said May 15, 2014 2:09 PM:
> Do you advise US authors to set their stories in unspecific locations if they are writing for international audiences?
Alana, I write computer courses, not fiction, so I might not be the best person to give advice on where to set a novel.
> A very real disincentive is that I am not familiar with the US so couldn't convincingly write about it. ...
With an online travel guide and social media, I suspect you could write convincingly about somewhere you have never been. John Birmingham crowd-sourced details for his "Axis of Time" series. He rewarded fans by using their names for characters in the books.
With online maps you can find the nearest bar (and get a review of it), or hospital and see home long it would take to get between two points on foot.
> As a reader I find the fact that books are set in other parts of the world to be one of the attractions to reading?
The differences have to be interesting, rather than just distracting. As an example, one quirky fact which might be mentioning in a political thriller about Canberra, is that the Defence HQ is in two Pentagon shaped buildings, presumably a subtle nod by the architect to our US alliance.
>And of course Australian fiction is viable.
Okay, yes. Someone who has proved that is Graeme Simsion with "The Rosie Project". When he emailed me to say he had written a novel, I had to check it was the same person who had taught me data modelling. After reading the book I was convinced the lead character was based on me, but so did just about every nerd who had ever met Graeme. ;-)
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