Sunday, April 05, 2009

Mapping It Out

This Sunday’s Guest Blogger is Diana R. Chambers. Her latest novel is Beyond the Border, a sweeping international story of love and intrigue in which the unlikely union of two families – American and Russian – sets off an explosive reaction that threatens to change the course of history.

She’s currently working on the third of a series with her now ex-CIA officer Nick and his now ex-agent Eve. A mysterious kidnapping leads them up the Mekong River to southern China.

You all must visit her website so you can discover more about this fascinating author. That is an order!


I was flattered by Rick’s invitation to pay you all a visit. And yet, the more I thought about it, the more anxious I became. Whatever the heck would I write about? When I consulted my host, he basically turned me loose and said whatever. Thanks a lot, Rick…because the “whatever” is the hardest part. Isn’t it?

Talking about the weather is always a good ice breaker, but you’ve done that recently. Then there was the question about mixing fact and fiction. Since this is something I do quite often in my work, I have to agree with Charles when he says, “hell yeah.” I would add, hell yeah, if it’s not a gimmick, but truly adds to the development of story and character. Which I know is what he meant.

I thought of all the newspaper clippings I’ve collected. Files of research and resource material, ideas to kick around, to get me going, set me on a path. That got me to thinking about all my maps, their role, actually their power, to lead me places. In truth, I have a thing for maps and see them as much more than large pieces of paper with different colored shapes framed by a lot of blue.

Lately, I’ve been poring over National Geographic maps of the Mekong River region, fascinated by the mix of worlds, trying to extract their sights and smells, imagining similar places I’ve been so as to create a reality in my mind…in case I don’t make it over there. Or at least, not yet. (Because these days, who can afford to travel?)

City maps are wonderful too. Once I wrote about the Tehran Bazaar, combining my Iranian research with sense memories of the Istanbul Bazaar. I never visited Tehran but did walk the streets in my mind. People raved about these passages of the book.

Previously I have studied maps of other areas I’ve written about, most recently the border area between Georgia/Armenia and Turkey. Aspects of the plot were suggested by the physical and political geography. And so I realized that to me, the place is its own character and often gives me an entrée into the story, or new directions for an existing one.

I could not have found a more appropriate topic since I met two of the typem4murder bloggers on a Left Coast Crime panel dealing with setting and place in writing. They are charming gentleman, despite all reports to the contrary.


Vicki Delany said...

At one of the talks Debby and I gave we were asked about using maps in mystery novels. The general feeling seemed to be that people loved them. I love them too!

Rick Blechta said...

I have over 30 Landranger maps for various parts of the UK that I've visited. We don't go anywhere there without a detailed map, showing details like "Farmer Brown's pig shed", in case we want to see it. Sometimes, I just open one up and imagine what that area looks like. I am a complete sucker for maps.