Today the wonderful and award-winning author Sloan Parker is my guest. She’s talking about her upcoming release, Take Me Home, a m/m romance about two best friends taking a train trip home and getting trapped in the mountains by a blizzard. Sloan is sharing about the choice of a train as the location for this novel. And not only that, at the end of her guest post she’s generously giving away an ecopy of Take Me Home to one lucky commenter. So, let’s give her the stage. :)
Location, location, location
by Sloan Parker
Huge thanks to Janna for inviting me to share on the blog today.
When she suggested I talk about the setting of the train in my upcoming release, Take Me Home, I must admit, I got a bit nervous. The choice of setting for this story was not a carefully planned out decision. I can’t offer much on how and why I thought that choice would be a good one, at least not when I started out. As I outlined the details of this story and the characters, I got more and more excited about the very mobile location of a train, and the positives and negatives of such a choice became clearer. In the end, I thought it worked out better than I dared to imagine when I’d started.
Crap, I wanted this to be an erotic romance, and the erotic parts were essential to each man’s character arc, so that meant they needed some serious time alone, not just at the beginning and the end, but throughout. This was not going to be the kind of story (or the kind of train trip) where they would be engaging in a public sex show bent over a table in the train’s dining car.
That led me to my next set of decisions: They would be traveling over 2000 miles. Which meant they could get a private sleeping compartment. Yes! The erotic scenes were back in play.
When I had the rough draft completed, it turned out more than half the book took place during that train trip. The setting of such close quarters and the fact they had all that time to spend together offered both opportunities and challenges.
How could I use the setting to compound what each man was feeling? Did I want them sitting in one room for most of the story? How could I get them moving around so it wasn’t a bunch of dialogue scenes strung together? How could I work in both intimacy and advance the plot from the confines of the train?
These kinds of deliberations (whether conscious or unconscious) are true of most decisions an author makes about a story: the setting, the time, the characters’ backstories, their professions, their families, etc. All of those specifics can help an author craft the tone and feel of the story he or she wishes to tell.
How such details are interpreted by the reader will vary, of course, as we all draw from our own experiences, likes, dislikes, and more when we read. That doesn’t mean just any old description can be thrown in, though. They need to be important and meaningful.
So how can the setting details help to shape the story and characters?
To give some examples of this, here are a few of the ways the setting in Take Me Home affected my writing, the story, and the characters.
- Don’t forget the romance
Sometimes when outlining a story, I have an issue with creating too much distance between my characters, focusing on the plot as it relates to each man individually more than the emotional and physical interactions necessary in an erotic romance. Which is funny, because the emotional sex scenes are the ones I enjoy writing the most.
The confined space of the train provided plenty of opportunities for the characters to interact. The setting forced me to keep their romantic relationship as the focus while planning out the story. When I started working on the scenes, I began by considering the characters’ relationship first, then the plot.
- Setting to enhance the character’s mood
Utilizing a mobile, temporary setting created a sense of being “in limbo” which was very central to Evan’s journey. Throughout the story, he never says the word “home,” even when talking about the places he has lived, he is living, or the old home they are returning to, until a specific scene near the end of the book. That’s because he doesn’t have a home, doesn’t know where his home is. Or perhaps a better way to say that is he doesn’t know if he can fully embrace the home he wants.
- Specifics create a connection
I can’t recall where I’ve read this writing advice before, but it goes something like this…the more specific the details of both time and place, the more universal the story for readers. Romance is fantasy. Most of us who read it like to escape into a love story, to really connect with the characters and get enough details to feel their emotions along with them. Utilizing specifics about the place, the time, and even the weather helped me showcase the emotional moments for Kyle and Evan. As an example, at one point Evan describes the snow-covered ground outside the train’s windows as something rushing by him, rather than the other way around, and he relates that to his own broken life and how it was nothing like he imagined it would be.
Some of my favorite m/m romances have powerfully utilized a setting to draw the reader deeper into the story and the characters’ emotions. The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks, Ransom, Brethren: Raised By Wolves, Keeping Promise Rock, and GhosTV just to name a few.
What are some of your favorite settings in a romance?
Sloan Parker is generously offering a copy of her upcoming release Take Me Home to one lucky commenter. To enter leave a comment telling you’d like to enter and answer Sloan’s question about your favorite settings in a romance.
The giveaway is international, and the winner will be announced on Tuesday, December 13, the release date of Take Me Home. So be sure to leave your comment before then and don’t forget to check back or leave a way for us to contact you in your comment or profile.
Good luck to you all!
Sloan Parker has been writing and playing with fictional characters for years, but she finally found her true passion when she began telling stories about two men (or more) falling in love. Now she spends her writing life creating m/m erotic romances and romantic suspense. She loves to explore the lives of people who are growing as individuals while falling in love. Her novel MORE is the 2011 EPIC eBook Award Winner for Mystery, Suspense, and/or Adventure Erotic Romance and winner of the 2010 Rainbow Award for Best Gay Contemporary Romance. Sloan enjoys writing in the fictional world because in fiction you can be anything, do anything...even fall in love for the first time over and over again.
Blurb for Take Me HomeAspiring television writer Evan Walker has been in love with his best friend since high school, but Kyle doesn’t do boyfriends. Never has. Never will. Evan knows it’s a bad idea to give in to desire when he wants more than a friend with benefits. He has a new dream job. Now all he needs is the dream partner.
Kyle Bennett is a mystery novelist with a severe case of writer’s block. He needs a change. He has three days on their cross-country train trip home for the holidays to figure out how to tell Evan he’s staying there for good. He also has to write the overdue pages for his editor. Only, he’s a little too distracted by the close quarters in their sleeper compartment—and Evan’s ass—to get much done.
The sparks that fly between them are hotter than ever. Good thing they have a real-life mystery to focus on: why people all around them, including Evan’s new boss, want to get their hands on a journal that once belonged to Kyle’s grandfather.
When a blizzard traps them in the mountains, Kyle and Evan steam up the train’s windows and must finally face their true desires.
Other DetailsLength: Novel, 90,862 words | Genre: Gay Contemporary Erotic Romance (m/m) | Publisher: Loose Id | Format: e-book | ISBN: 978-1-61118-687-1 | Release Date: December 13, 2011
LinkitySloan Parker’s website | Blog | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Behind the stories: a preview in pictures of Take Me Home | Buy Take Me Home here