Keeping along the lines of my post about being inspired by your surroundings, I thought I’d talk about the “where” of my latest novel. I chose the setting for my latest novel Evil on the Peace River very carefully. The events that take place are violent and dark – moreso than in anything else I’ve written before. I needed to choose an environment that would heighten the atmosphere of tension felt when you have two raging psychopaths on the loose.
So while I love living out here, it can occasionally serve to give me the shivers a bit too. When I’m out driving on a dark dirt road and I’m the only one out there it does occasionally cross my mind what could happen if I broke down without my cel phone and without a soul around for miles to help me. And navigating through the hills and forests of the Peace is not a task one should take without a good map or some really good advice!
So really, while I’m most inclined to see the beauty in the Peace Hills, it’s not such a stretch to use it as the backdrop for a story of terror. Even the most hardened country person occasionally gets spooked by the sound of a hooting owl in the dark…
One of the most difficult decisions I had to make during my various drafts of this novel was about the time period. I had to make some difficult decisions about what era would best suit the atmosphere of the story I wanted to tell. Ultimately, I decided to set it in the 1950s for one very simple reason: technology, or the lack of it!
We’ve become so used to email, cel phones, and google that it’s hard to imagine how a small town would cope with a major violent crime and fugitives on the run. There’s no cel phone or credit card records to help track down criminals. The idea of having to approach a manhunt as a police officer without the benefit of DNA or something as simple as electronic records really intrigued me. Before they had all our sophisticated technology and officers went out on patrol they were incredibly vulnerable. If they didn’t happen to be near their car radios they were essentially cut off from the world; anything could happen to them without anyone else knowing.
That “anything’ could be something pretty darn horrific, and in Evil on the Peace River that’s exactly what it is…
I was thinking about the writing process today and what writers need to thrive. They often say that there are two kinds of people in the world, “city folks” and “country folks.” The kind of isolation a person can feel living far away from a major metropolis isn’t something everyone can deal with. I thrive on it; I couldn’t imagine living somewhere where I could see everything my neighbour was doing and vice versa.
In fact, I find the isolation pretty inspiring – it lets your imagination run wild. You’re not bombarded by the same distractions as you are in city living, and for a writer that’s incredibly important. Being able to go for a walk and be confronted by the open landscape is a lot like being given a blank canvas for your imagination.