Saturday, November 17, 2007
My first series is set in the real city of Revere, Massachusetts, where I grew up. Besides making trips back there myself, I garnered great support from family and friends when I needed to know whether a particular avenue is one-way or what kind of trees line Tuttle Street.
I thought it would be easier to set a book closer to where I live now, so I set the fourth in the series in Berkeley, California, one city over. It wasn't that much easier. I still had to go there with a notebook and camera to get the details right. Ditto when I set the eighth book in New York City. I wrote a lot of it while I was visiting, taking pictures and writing a daily log. Still, I had details to research from a distance. How many ponds in Central Park? How many subway stops from Times Square to Bloomingdale's?
I take these details seriously, but even so now and then I make an error.
Mystery readers may be too picky, however. We are writing fiction, after all.
Here's an example: I set a crime in the Revere Public Library—a reader on a mystery list pointed out that I'd given the library a director and an assistant director, whereas the real RPL has no assistant director. Really!
And here's my favorite. You've heard it many times if you've ever been to one of my book signings. I "erected" a nuclear lab in Revere and staffed it with scientists to work with for the periodic table series. One reader never mentioned that amazing "error," but complained that I had a character stop at a Starbucks and Revere has no Starbucks. Go figure. (Is Starbucks more odious than nuclear waste?)
How fussy are you—writers and readers—about getting it right? Do you have any errors to share?