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Should Canadian/U.K./Australian authors set crime fiction in U.S. city to better capture U.S. market?

Yes, absolutely it will help
3 (5.9%)
No, stick to your roots
20 (39.2%)
No, only the story matters
16 (31.4%)
No, readers don't care
9 (17.6%)
Yes, but make sure it is authentic
2 (3.9%)
More explanation needed? Vote above but find corresponding forum question under "City setting question"
1 (2%)

Total Members Voted: 51

Author Topic: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?  (Read 1103 times)  

Offline kathrinlake4@gmail.com

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Should Canadian/U.K./Australian authors set crime fiction in U.S. city to better capture U.S. market?
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Offline It's A Mystery

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2018, 11:47:58 AM »
Should Canadian/U.K./Australian authors set crime fiction in U.S. city to better capture U.S. market?

I'm writing traditional mysteries set in a fictional county in England and have done well in the US.

Not sure it's made any difference.

Offline thevoiceofone

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2018, 12:45:14 PM »
Should Canadian/U.K./Australian authors set crime fiction in U.S. city to better capture U.S. market?

Yes in America. It's where the bulk of readers are. Though UK works well or international.

Offline C. Gold

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2018, 12:56:36 PM »
I suggest sticking to your roots because it can be so much fun reading about a different country/city from the traditional US cities. And if you make any mistakes about the geography, they are GLARING to natives.

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2018, 01:19:53 PM »
I say stick to your roots. Even in the fictional world you build, if you try to set it in America somewhere and there are flaws, they're obvious and frustrating.

As a reader, I don't care so much about the setting in that way, so it wouldn't bother me as an American if the setting was Australia or wherever.

Offline StacyC

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2018, 01:23:30 PM »
Just write the story and the blurb as you normally would and don't make a big deal about where it's located. I'm from the US and currently reading a thriller set in the UK and I'm enjoying it every bit as much as any set here where I'm familiar.
  

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2018, 01:31:46 PM »
I would only set the story in America if I felt I could make it realistic, and while I've spent a few months there over the years, I don't think I know enough to not look like I was clueless.

Heck, I've been in Canada for over ten years, and I'm not sure I can write believable stories set here.

Offline The Fussy Librarian

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #7 on: April 15, 2018, 01:57:05 PM »
I think mystery readers just want a great story and a setting in someplace different can have a lot of appeal. I'm thinking of Toby Neal's Lei Crime series, set in Hawaii, for example.

If you don't live in America and set your mystery here, there's zero room for error. And there are many regional quirks that can be opportunities for mistakes. All it takes is one or two mistakes for the reader to be turned off.

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #8 on: April 15, 2018, 02:16:52 PM »
While I am not a crime/fiction writer per se,  I do base all my novels in Australia where I have lived for most of my life. It may well limit my reading audience, but it is what I know and am comfortable with. My favourite author, born in Africa where he based his first novel "The Power of One", moved to Australia where he based most of his following novels. It did not harm his selling capabilities at all. He is not as well known on the world stage as others, but Bryce Courtenay was a great writer IMHO.
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Offline lyndabelle

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #9 on: April 15, 2018, 02:17:04 PM »
Americans like to hear about other places, especially Europe or Australia. Exotic is even better. I alway think it makes the mystery to be more appealing if it is somewhere else like Paris, Sydney, Prague or Munich.  Think about why James Bond is so popular. :D

Though, small town mysteries do have a niche here, that could probably be done in a small village in England. It would attract my attention since it is in England. I would say, people in the US don't necessarily want to read about places here unless they haven't been there and want to go, like New York, Chicago, San Francisco or LA.

But then, I don't read a lot of mysteries. My husband does. And he loves the Swedish mysteries lately. But he is a Brit.

Of course, keeping in mind I live in California, I will read a story that takes place here just because it reminds me of home. But yeah, I'd know if the references were off.

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Offline joesmithx

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2018, 02:21:25 PM »
I always say, write what you know. Even someone as good as Lee Child really threw me off with his first couple of books when he kept having all-American good guy Jack Reacher end sentences with "right?" and people were "called" instead of "named". Not everyone will notice but I knew right away ol Lee wasn't an American when I read those early Jack Reacher books.

As a reader, I love reading about new exotic places, but I'm not most people. A lot of people are not adventurous and like familiarity, as much as we, as writers, wish they weren't so stuck on it. Likewise how a lot of romance readers demand happy endings, etc. People like familiarity, things that won't challenge them, so if this is purely a business move, you might want to consider that also.

Offline Fleurina

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2018, 02:38:17 PM »
I set my first book in London, where I lived for many years. The second, soon to be published one begins in London but then travels to Las Vegas, Sedona and Monument Valley. I've holidayed in those latter places but it wasn't until halfway through that I wished I'd stayed on home turf - I kept having to check my facts, journey times etc. on Google.
Just began book three today and what a relief - it begins in London and then travels between Liverpool, where I was born, and Skye where I lived for ten years. Phew, so much more comfortable and less time-consuming.  I automatically know about the weather, journey times, phraseology.
Recently I read a novel set in the UK but written by an author from Los Angeles. Although I enjoyed it, the speed at which characters leapt across the country was impossible, and some of the speech was all wrong, which didn't bother me - I found it rather quaint.
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Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2018, 02:53:18 PM »
To me one of the appeals of crime fiction is that setting really adds something to the story. You can have the same basic story in the Bronx or rural France, but the vibe will be super different. I imagine that readers like esoteric settings for that reason.

I mean, people love Scandinavian noir. Phillip Kerrs work was totally different again. As is Adrian McKintys.

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Offline JRTomlin

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2018, 02:54:36 PM »
Mine are set in Scotland and do reasonably well. I have never noticed that Scottish and UK settings hurt the sales of Ian Rankin, P. D. James or Val McDermid. And rumour has it that Agatha Christie sold a few of her novels set in England, so I'm not sure I'd worry about which country. Just make sure it seems authentic. 

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2018, 03:07:40 PM »
I choose the mysteries I read based on where they're supposedly taking place. I voted to stick to your roots, but feel free to write about any place in the world about which you have firsthand knowledge.

For instance, despite living in Brookyn, NY, for over a decade, I never, ever heard a single New Yorker of any ilk say "Fuggedaboudit." I heard some other choice things beginning with that letter...

Offline Max 007

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2018, 03:11:14 PM »

Dubai - make it an international crime ...

Offline ADDavies

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2018, 03:30:43 PM »
My Brit-set books do pretty well in the US. I think it takes a little while for the right market to find you (or you to find them) but the hook and plot gets you the sale, the quality of the writing will get you sell through to the next in the series. Some Americans will only read American, like some Brits won't touch American books, so just make sure it's GOOD.

My additional advice, if you haven't already taken it, is take your time. Get three ready before publishing the first, then get them out pretty fast, and then get working on book 4. Decent copy in the back is useful to get them to buy the next one (not cut-and-paste book description).

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Offline Acheknia

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2018, 03:33:13 PM »
My vote... No, only the story matters.

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2018, 03:38:15 PM »
OK, I might say something wildly unpopular here, but here goes.

I believe the setting should interact with your plot, so if you have a story in mind, but are facing the choice whether to set it in London or New York, you have a problem with your story. Because if you plan the story right, there *is* no choice, because the story won't work in any location other than where you have set it. Especially a story that relies so heavily on the quirks and vagaries of authorities (or absence of authority) as crime fiction does.

Offline Bec

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2018, 03:41:57 PM »
My latest (pen name) book is a post-apoc book set in Australia. It's done a  lot better than I expected sales wise. The bulk of my sales have been to Americans, and I have quite a few reviews and comments from those American readers saying that they really enjoyed the change of scenery and reading about the apocalypse from an Aussie perspective.

 I do write in Australian English, but I make sure the 'strange' words make sense in context.


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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #20 on: April 15, 2018, 03:52:22 PM »
I believe you should set your story where you want to set it and where it needs to be set (because locations can't usually be swapped out easily without changing the story. Besides, crime and mystery readers are pretty open with regard to international settings and crime and mystery has a higher quota of translated fiction than many other genres.


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Offline LectorsBooks

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2018, 04:16:07 PM »
I'm an American and I read a lot of mysteries. I love when they're set in other countries, especially if they evoke a strong sense of place. I think it's easier to capture that sense of place if it's a place you're familiar with, whether that's your home country or a place you've visited often. 

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Offline ellenoc

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2018, 04:41:18 PM »
Louise Penney's Inspector Gamache and Kathy Reich's Temperance Brennan series are set in Canada and both successful. I've read some nice mysteries set in Australia, but can't think of series offhand. I admit to being parochial, which for me means only stories set in English-speaking countries appeal, but the U.S. isn't the only one of those. :) I have no idea what percentage of the mystery-reading U.S. population is like me.

Offline Spin52

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2018, 04:42:01 PM »
I set my first two series in my home town of Seattle because I didn't dare write about anywhere else. As others have said, any small mistake is glaring to a native. It has taken me 34 years in Oxfordshire to be confident enough to set books there, but even then I set them in the 1860s. The bulk of those Victorian books have been bought by American and Canadian readers.


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Offline JRTomlin

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #24 on: April 15, 2018, 05:04:06 PM »
OK, I might say something wildly unpopular here, but here goes.

I believe the setting should interact with your plot, so if you have a story in mind, but are facing the choice whether to set it in London or New York, you have a problem with your story. Because if you plan the story right, there *is* no choice, because the story won't work in any location other than where you have set it. Especially a story that relies so heavily on the quirks and vagaries of authorities (or absence of authority) as crime fiction does.
I have to agree with this. Ian Rankin's Scottish Noir wouldn't have worked in Duluth and shouldn't have.

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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #25 on: April 15, 2018, 05:05:16 PM »
I'm an American, and I voted "No, stick to your roots."

For the record, my favorite novel of all time doesn't take place in America.  It takes place in Middle-Earth.   ;)
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Offline SteveHarrison

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #26 on: April 15, 2018, 05:12:14 PM »
I live in Australia, but my WIP crime thriller is set in New York. I haven't taken marketing into account; it's just the natural location for the story.

I have visited New York a number of times, but it's impossible to capture the essence of a city unless you live there, so fortunately I have a NY native novelist friend who will run a close eye over the finished manuscript.

Offline P.J. Post

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #27 on: April 15, 2018, 05:36:25 PM »
OK, I might say something wildly unpopular here, but here goes.

I believe the setting should interact with your plot, so if you have a story in mind, but are facing the choice whether to set it in London or New York, you have a problem with your story. Because if you plan the story right, there *is* no choice, because the story won't work in any location other than where you have set it. Especially a story that relies so heavily on the quirks and vagaries of authorities (or absence of authority) as crime fiction does.

Yep, this.
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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #28 on: April 15, 2018, 05:42:31 PM »
Should Canadian/U.K./Australian authors set crime fiction in U.S. city to better capture U.S. market?

Absolutely not.

For all the reasons lots of people have already given. Not sure why people outside the US think Americans only want to read about Americans/America, but we really like reading about other places. Especially when written by people who can write those places authentically. Setting it where we live and getting it wrong is really annoying, but setting it where you live (or where you've been) and we haven't is exciting and interesting. (But I also agree that you need to set the story where it makes the most sense. All other things being equal, though, go with a place you're familiar with.)

Threads like this make me think people outside the US have a really weird opinion of Americans.

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #29 on: April 15, 2018, 06:47:55 PM »
<snip>
Threads like this make me think people outside the U.S. have a really weird opinion of Americans.

Which is why as an American I urge you to get to know some Americans well enough to get beyond the cliches, or else do the best version of those cliches possible. For example, I'm perfectly happy to read a well-done send-up of cliche Brits, especially the snooty, posh ones, but unique Brits could be more interesting. 

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #30 on: April 15, 2018, 08:19:36 PM »
Yep, this.

That's true. Not all places are the same. In fact, they're all different, and the people and the customs they're known for.

I know you're all talking about crime fiction, but what about other genres? How important is the accuracy of a setting if it's fantasy or dystopia, where I can assume authors are free to be creative to change a few things? And another question, how about if you make a fictional setting in a real country. Bleach the anime was based on a fictional town in Japan. I know it's not a novel, but I guess how free you are to be accurate or not depends on the genre? I know I'm writing senseless here, or whatever, but experienced authors, I need your [expletive]ing help! (I might post a separate thread in case I don't receive enough feedback.)

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #31 on: April 15, 2018, 08:34:59 PM »
I am in the US and I actively seek out thrillers/mysteries not set in the US. I am an import to the US though, not sure if that matters. I just want it to feel authentic. If you can make me feel that, I am cool. I am currently in love with the Inspector Lynley mysteries. They are set in England mostly. I have no clue where the author is based in. I don't get close to authors that way, I don't care. I just care about a story feeling real and authentic.

Um, but England, UK or whatever, is like the US in terms of commonly used settings. I mean, Harry Pottter, right?

Offline ellenoc

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #32 on: April 15, 2018, 08:41:06 PM »
I am currently in love with the Inspector Lynley mysteries. They are set in England mostly. I have no clue where the author is based in.

I read somewhere she's American but spends months in England for each book.

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #33 on: April 15, 2018, 08:55:51 PM »
Quote
I am currently in love with the Inspector Lynley mysteries. They are set in England mostly. I have no clue where the author is based in.

Elizabeth George is actually American, though she has spent time in Britain and does extensive research. Nonetheless, British friends have told me that occasionally her books feel off to them.


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Offline jb1111

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #34 on: April 16, 2018, 03:24:46 AM »
I would write what you know, in settings that you know.

That isn't to say that you can't write a book set in a foreign place. Look at 50 Shades. There are a few geographical glitches present in that book, but it still sold well, and it influenced countless other books. I think the Twilight series was set in an area that the author hadn't ever visited before writing it. Yet it sold fairly well. One doesn't have to always write about places where they have been.

That said, if you research well enough, including a lot of using of Google maps and the like, you could possibly pull it off.

But I don't think you need to set a crime novel in a US city to appeal to US audiences. You may have to keep foreign audiences in mind when describing Australian locations, i.e. don't necessarily word things as if the audience has already been there. I set my stories in my own locality here in the US, and one third of my readers are in the UK. I try to describe the localities in a way that if the reader is elsewhere they still will understand the basic setting... almost like a tourist guide, without overdoing it in case I have readers who have been here. I try to keep it as natural as possible, but I keep my UK readers in mind.

For example, if you mentioned prominent Sydney or Melbourne neighborhoods, you might have to describe them a little differently if you want an American audience to understand the setting. Just name dropping a suburb wouldn't work if the reader doesn't know where it is. You'd want to describe how the guy got there, or maybe add further geographical descriptions so that foreign readers in the US would understand where the character is, and picture the setting in their mind. I know that seems like stating the obvious, but it's definitely something to keep in mind when writing with a foreign readership in mind.

I don't think you'd have to set a novel here in the US for it to sell. There are a lot of Americans curious about Oz, and Australian locations. Road Warrior was a massive hit here, and it was a movie not only based in Oz, but filmed there. The Thorn Birds sold well here. I'm sure there are other books I can't think of that were based in Australia that have sold well here.

Finally, the story is the seller of the book, right? If the story's good, it could probably be set in Antarctica or the Moon and people would buy it.

Good luck in your endeavors.

ETA: looked at your blog, appears you are Canadian. I don't know where I got the idea you were in Australia -- my bad. Might have been from reading a few other posts in this thread.

But... you get the idea.

I think Canadian writers still would want to be careful in describing US locales... I don't think I could pull off writing a Canadian setting if I hadn't been there. But there is enough knowledge of the US in Canada that a Canadian writer could probably have an easier time writing a US-set crime novel and pull it off.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 03:41:31 AM by jb1111 »

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #35 on: April 16, 2018, 09:14:05 AM »
I'm making a respectable amount of money writing mysteries (and also women's fiction) set in Greece. But I've lived there, my family still lives there, and I know how firsthand how ... flexible the law can be.

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Offline Jessie G. Talbot

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Re: Where to set your crime mystery fiction if you are NOT American?
« Reply #36 on: April 16, 2018, 09:53:41 AM »
The US is vast and every state, even every town, can be exotic to other Americans. I'm no expert on New York, for example. Go right ahead if you WANT to set your mystery here, only natives of the area you choose will really nitpick your story. You can make your hero from your own home country and that will explain any foreign phrasing as well.

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