Annette Dashofy is the USA Today best-selling author of the Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. CIRCLE OF INFLUENCE, which has been nominated for the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, was published by Henery Press in March 2014, followed by LOST LEGACY (September 2014) and BRIDGES BURNED (April 2015). Her short fiction includes a 2007 Derringer Award nominee featuring the same characters as her novels. She also serves as vice president to the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and to Pennwriters.
Over the recent years, I’ve taught a workshop or two, but confess to feeling a bit like a fraud. Why should anyone listen to me? Even though I was sharing good information, most of which I’d learned from our very own Pennwriters authors and members, I had no clue why anyone would pay attention to a word I said. After all, I was in the same trying-to-get-published boat as they were.
This year, finally, I feel worthy. A little, anyway. I have three books out. I’ve hit the USA Today bestseller list with two of them. I was nominated for an Agatha for Best First Novel. If that isn’t “street cred,” I don’t know what is.
So I’m teaching TWO workshops and moderating the In the Line of Duty panel.
One of my workshops has to do with POV. Point of View. Or “Fun with POV” as I like to call it. The subject gives some folks fits, but I enjoy getting not only “inside the heads” of a few of my characters, but “under their skin.” Have you ever watched Johnny Depp completely immerse himself into the character he’s playing so that you almost don’t see HIM any more? That’s what POV is like for me. I cease to be Annette, and I become Zoe. Or even Pete. I see through their eyes, hear through their ears, think from their world view, and taste through their tongues.
Which is weird considering I’m a vegetarian and Zoe loves cheeseburgers. But that’s a topic for another blog.
My second workshop this weekend is Making Your Setting a Character.
(I think I need to TAKE a workshop on coming up with better titles for workshops.)
In this one, I plan to discuss some of my favorite books and authors and how they transport me through their writing to new and wonderful locations. From Craig Johnson’s Absaroka County, Wyoming to Julia Spencer-Fleming’s Miller’s Kill, New York to David and Aimee Thurlo’s Farmington, New Mexico. I study these authors and hope to create a similar sense of setting for my fictional Monongahela County, Pennsylvania. Hint: it’s not just description. It’s the people who populate these towns and counties. It’s how they speak and what they believe and how THEY see their world. It’s weather and the complications a blizzard or dust storm can wreak on a crime scene or on a simple drive home. It’s the types of food and the types of shelter common in that area. It’s the sights and smells. It’s the history and the lore.
Can you tell I get very excited about this subject? Excuse me while I call the airlines and make reservations for my next trip.
Quick story: I had read a number of David and Aimee Thurlo’s Ella Clah mysteries set in northwestern New Mexico. I’d never been there, but could see, smell, and taste it through the Thurlos’ words. Two years ago, I finally made my first trip out west and spent several days driving around Ella’s world, and yes, I felt as if I knew it. I recognized the landscape even though it was completely foreign to my easterner’s eyes. I recognized the Navajo people and their beliefs. I recognized the dust and the arroyos and the canyons.
I hope someday someone will read one of my books and then travel to southwestern Pennsylvania for the first time and feel as though they’d been frequent visitors over the years.