Setting the Mood By Jeri Westerson
One of the reasons I’ve never gone in for writing screenplays is that I love writing the narrative prose of a novel. I love the descriptions, setting the tone and mood of a piece. I’m a prose whore, and nothing gets me all a-tingle like some well-written sentence, or a paragraph or page that puts me in another world.
And you must sense it, too, because the readers of this blog love to sink into these different worlds, different places.
I was once in conversation with another author about world-building. We know the masters of it; J.R.R. Tolkien, JK Rowling, George R.R. Martin—they take what we know from history, from the world around us, throw in a smattering of mythology, and make a perfectly reasonable alternative reality to what we know. But my contention was that every book has some measure of this world-building, even in the historical mysteries that I also write, because readers need to be re-introduced to medieval London, to the everyday life and customs of such an intimate society. And the same is also true of paranormal novels. It’s the writer who must set the world first in a reality that the reader can relate to before she can expand upon that foundation. Only when that foundation is firmly in place can you use it as a jumping off point.
And then there is the author’s personal reality of the world she has built. With Anne Rice, her vampires are sexy but deadly and dangerous, and most definitely do not go out into the sun. But in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight world, vampires sparkle in the sunlight, and long to live among humans, not dine upon them. At least the good ones.
Similarly, my world of BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN involves demons and mythological beasts mostly found in England and Europe. My demons have a certain character, a certain list of do’s and don’ts, of what they can do and what they can’t. It makes the drama more interesting if they have weaknesses to exploit, and they can’t solve every problem with magical powers. And once that is established, readers go along with it. And woe to the writer who cheats or somehow dismisses all she has established before. Readers have a sharp eye. They know the details of these worlds. How many times have I corrected someone in a conversation that “a Dementor can’t do that”?
These series of six books that I have embarked upon take place in the weeks leading up to Halloween. And since we are in New England, and my favorite time of year is fall, I get to have as many fall leaves around me as I want! And that is saying something from this southern California gal.
In fact, you can always tell at what time of the year I write the coldest scenes, where it is the rainiest, windiest, most autumny. It is bound to be smack in the middle of summer where I live, sixty miles east of Los Angeles without even the memory of a sea breeze. It’s hot. One hundred plus degrees hot, even through October, so you’d better believe I pour all my descriptive powers into writing the most fall-like scenes you’ve ever read. You can almost taste that pumpkin spice latte.
Besides, cold fall evenings are perfect times for a warm and crackling fire in the fireplace, of snuggling down in your sweater and woolly socks next to a handsome man…even if that man is a demon.
My little New England village of Moody Bog is a conglomeration of villages I have seen in Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina (though ironically, not in Maine). Don’t we all have those places in our mind’s eyes where we fantasize about living; the New England of our collective nostalgia? Robert Frost’s snowy woods and birches. White clapboard houses with porches and elm-lined streets. A picturesque church with a tall steeple before a village green. A quaint market, and friendly neighbors. We long for a place most of us have never been and maybe doesn’t exist. But it is always in these particularly idyllic places that danger and evil seems to lurk. Where the smiling faces of your neighbors are not always about being friendly, but harbor secrets instead, secrets you’d rather not know.
This is my Moody Bog. The perfect little small town…with a deadly secret.
by Jeri Westerson
After a relationship gone bad in California, Kylie Strange moves to rural Maine for a fresh start. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a supernatural book bricked into the wall of her new tea shop. As soon as she opens the Booke of the Hidden, the quiet town of Moody Bog suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. First the mysterious and handsome Erasmus Dark shows up unannounced, claiming to be a demon and warning Kylie of untold destruction. She waves him off, until a museum proprietor turns up dead, and the sheriff targets Kylie as a suspect. With the help of Erasmus and a ragtag group of local Wiccans, Kylie unravels the Booke’s secrets, and they begin to believe the culprit is someone—or something—much more sinister than a run-of-the mill human murderer.
Los Angeles native and award-winning author JERI WESTERSON writes the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Mysteries, historical novels, urban fantasy (including the upcoming BOOKE OF THE HIDDEN series), and the Skyler Foxe LGBT Mysteries. To date, her medieval mysteries have garnered twelve industry award nominations, from the Agatha to the Shamus. Jeri is the former president of the SoCal chapter of Mystery Writers of America, and frequently guest lectures on medieval history at local colleges and museums.