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Stewart's Crossing, Alaska and Other Lies We Tell

Fiction is fun. As authors, we get to make up all kinds of stuff. Sure, accuracy is important where it matters, but the most fun I have while writing is just letting my imagination loose, which is why I make up towns rather than use real ones for the primary settings in my books.

For example, take Stewart's Crossing, Alaska, where the Kyndall family is from and where half of the Kyndall Thriller books will be set. It is loosely based, from a geographic sense, on Cordova, Alaska. The problem with using real towns is that there will always be something . . . off. If an author uses a real place based on how that town is right now, what happens when someone picks up the book in five or ten years and the town has changed. It happens, then the reader wonders why the author didn't research better. There are some authors who pull it off fabulously (Susanna Kearsley comes to mind), but not all authors can visit every location they want to write about. Others make it work by mentioning general things about a town that are unlikely to change.

Me? I like to make stuff up.

I can pull it off easier with my historical books because the towns were what they were centuries ago, but present-day . . . not as easy for me.

Enter the fictional town of Whatever-ville, where authors can make up anything and everything. And we do! I like to combine elements from different places to create a setting that suits my characters and their stories. Of course, authors are responsible for making sure climate, nearby towns, and other geographic markers are accurate, which lends the necessary authenticity to stories we all crave.

But making it up is fun, too.

Depending on how you look at fiction, it is either one big lie or our version of the truth at the time we're writing it (paraphrased from Nora Roberts' Born in Ice). I've read that book half a dozen times, and that line always sticks out. Brianna is speaking with Grayson and he mentions something about fiction being a lie and Brianna contradicts him with her brilliant words of wisdom.

The lies we tell are a version of our own truth at the time we write them (thank you Nora Roberts). We are living the "lies" right alongside the people in our books, which makes them their truth, our truth.

Montana | Image @Pixabay

I do the same thing when writing the second-chance romances. The towns of Moose Creek, Montana and Wycliffe, Wyoming are products of my imagination. Sometimes I will use the names of rivers or mountains, but shy away from a primary setting in a real town. When I visit my fictional towns, I can do so with abandon and a free imagination.

The same can be said as a reader. I read all the time, and rarely pay attention to whether or not a town/place in the book is real. Some are obviously real and not, and others I've visited or are familiar with, so I picture the real setting (and get annoyed when it's wrong).

Fiction is made up, fake, fantasy, myth, hooey, (enter your favorite adjective here), but it's still real to the writers and readers for those minutes, hours, and days they are immersed in the story. I read a lot of non-fiction for research, but when I want to escape, to really have a grand adventure, I turn the pages of a great work of fiction.

As a reader, do you recognize towns in books and pick out the things the author got wrong, or do you simply enjoy the story?

Book Spotlight

Saige Travers said goodbye to Owen McGregor sixteen years ago. A spontaneous choice brings Saige home to Moose Creek, Montana, and she doesn’t expect her past to catch up with her present. When Owen walks back into her life, she struggles to remember why she left. Together they discover second chances are real and hope is a cherished gift.

Christmas in Moose Creek by McKenna Grey

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Type: Novelette

Heat Level: 1

Language Level: 1

Violence Level: 1

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Learn more about McKenna.

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