Poll

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 1096 times)  

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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Offline Puddleduck

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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.

Offline LilyBLily

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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. 

Offline Yayoi

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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.)

Offline Yayoi

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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?

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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.

Offline CoraBuhlert

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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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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 »

Offline SevenDays

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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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