It's all about Location, location, location

It's all about Location, location, location

Posted on November 21 by Nick Wilkshire
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No, this isn’t a real-estate blog, but the familiar mantra is just as relevant to fiction, where the setting can be as central to a novel as one of the characters. As a reader, I love books that transport me to foreign settings, whether they conjure up memories of places I’ve been before or introduce me to somewhere new. And I’m far from alone. There’s a reason writers like Jo Nesbo, Ann Cleeves, and Mark Billingham are so popular with North American readers, just as Michael Connolly and Louise Penny are beloved in Europe.

I believe that a part of each of us is drawn to the foreign, and that fiction offers the chance to travel vicariously, whether you’re a globe trotter in real life or more of a homebody. For fans of series fiction (I include myself), the norm is to follow a character through different mysteries in the same location. My goal with the Foreign Affairs series was to offer something a little different — a series of mysteries with each book set in a different location.

Charlie Hillier’s job as a Canadian consular officer provides the perfect pretext for these rotating settings, as he is posted from one city to the next (Havana, Moscow, Tokyo...). Readers get to experience these unique locales through Charlie’s eyes, and the fact that he’s constantly adjusting to somewhere new means that he’s always a little unsettled and a little off-balance. And, of course, he can’t help but bring his own background and experiences with him to each new posting (did I mention that Charlie’s Canadian?).

The settings for the first three books were chosen for two main reasons:  first, because of their stark difference from Ottawa and Charlie’s staid former life there and, second, because I’ve spent enough time in each location to recreate at least some of the atmosphere — the sights, sounds, smells, customs, et cetera. Even with all of the online information, images, and other virtual props available, I’m not sure I’d be able to set a novel in a place I’d never experienced first-hand. Luckily, I’ve had the chance to travel quite a bit and there are plenty of future postings awaiting Charlie Hillier.

As for his latest adventure, I’ll only say that Charlie finds Moscow no less foreign and challenging than Havana was, but I invite you read The Moscow Code to see how he makes out. And I hope you’ll follow him to Tokyo in 2018...