It is a pleasure to welcome mystery author Liz Milliron to my blog! Many of you may also know her as a blogger for Mysteristas. Today she is here to share more about how she researches the settings of her mystery series – Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania – and weaves her own experiences into her characters’ lives.
Be sure and let Liz know via comment where you enjoy traveling to most – either in person or in fiction!
Location, location, location by Liz Milliron
Thanks so much Jennifer for having me visit today!
One of the first things a writer decides when she sits down to write a story is setting, where the story is going to take place. Real or fictional? City or small town? Beach, mountain, forest, desert? The type of setting is going to influence the story.
Take my Laurel Highlands Mysteries. I chose to set it in the very-real location of the Laurel Highlands, which is located about an hour’s drive south of Pittsburgh. The area is pretty rural, dotted with small towns. One of my protagonists, Jim Duncan, lives in one of those small towns, a place called Confluence.
Now, the best writers (and I don’t claim this is me) really make you feel like you’re in a place. Deborah Crombie does a wonderful job with England. When I read one of Mark Pryor’s Hugo Marston books, I can see Paris. How do they do it?
Well, if you have the cash, travel is always an option. Many writers I know who use foreign locales take yearly trips to stock up on experiences, remember the delicious smells from a bakery, the lap of water along the Thames or the Seine, the way the fog curls off the river in the morning. These are the kinds of atmospheric details that make a setting more than just a place.
They make it a character.
Fortunately for me (and my wallet), I don’t need a passport or to hop a plane to visit the Laurel Highlands. I can get in my car. Many times, I’ve met up with a friend and we’ve had a wonderful jaunt…er, research trip, driving through the countryside and seeing the sights.
For example, I’ve visited Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle State Park and heard the splash of the water as it cascades down.
I’ve seen the Youghiogheny (pronounced YOCK-AH-GANEY) River at near flood stage.
I’ve been to the top of a scenic overlook just before fall and smelled the oncoming change of seasons.
And I’ve eaten in the Lucky Dog Café, Jim and Sally’s favorite eatery in Confluence to feel the ambiance and savor the food.
I hope this all comes out in my writing. I enjoy these little trips down the Turnpike and writing about it gives me an excuse to visit on a regular basis.
But I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me a trip to London, either.
Readers, where is your favorite place to travel – either in person or in fiction?
Thanks for sharing this great article about setting with us, Liz!
State Trooper Jim Duncan’s quiet overnight shift turns deadly when fire destroys a ski lodge at a local resort and the first responders find a man’s body inside. What starts as a suspicious accident quickly becomes sinister when the autopsy proves the victim is not the man who rented the cabin. Jim’s left with three questions. Who is John Doe? Why was he at the ski lodge? And who hated him enough to kill him?
Assistant Public Defender Sally Castle, still reeling after the events of several months ago, tries to bury her feelings of guilt and fear in her work. When an anonymous note from a secret admirer arrives at the courthouse, she brushes it off as an empty threat. As the missives, each one darker than the last, continue to arrive at her office as well as her home, Sally’s forced to review all the possibilities. Is the letter-writer a person from her legal past? Or is the threat closer to home?
As the questions multiply, Jim and Sally are thrown into a race to find a murderer as well as a stalker…before Sally ends up facing more than an unwanted pen pal.
About the Author
Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series about a Pennsylvania State Trooper and a Fayette County assistant public defender in the scenic Laurel Highlands. The first in the series, Root of All Evil, was released in August, 2018. Liz’s short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, including Murder Most Historical and the Anthony-award-winning Blood on the Bayou. She is a past president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime, as well as a member of Pennwriters and International Thriller Writers. She lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband, two teens, and a retired-racer greyhound.