Another Reason To Use Known Settings
I have many and varied reasons to use known settings for my romance stories. By setting them in New Zealand, or at least to have that touch of New Zealand flavour, I feel safe. I have a fair understanding of the laws of New Zealand.
The United States has a huge romance readership and many foreign writers set their stories there, I assume in the expectation they will attract readers by writing about places those readers will recognise. Even if a writer has never been to the US, Google and other internet sites allow the ability to ‘visit’ and ‘see’ a location so clearly it can be described in great detail. Television and the movies gives further evidence of social ‘rules’ and interactions a writer could follow. A writer might feel confident s/he can use these locations without concern.
But an article in our newspaper yesterday suggested an unexpected pitfall. Were you aware there are twenty one states in the United States who outlaw sexual intercourse between married men and women with anyone other than their spouse? Surely this is vital knowledge to anyone writing romances? I mean, if we set a story in Idaho for example, we’d have to know a prison term of up to three years could be enforced if one of our characters was convicted of an extra marital affair. I was ignorant of this law. Almost half of the states still have something similar on their statute books. Were you aware of this? While it would make me very nervous about setting stories in the US, I guess in the right type of romance story, this law could add some extra conflict to the story.
Phew! I’m glad my sweet romances don’t include extra-marital affairs. Although I am now concerned about the possibility unmarried people having sex might also be against the law in some states. Can anyone tell me if this is the case? Oh man, I hope DC and MD are not included if there are any as I’ve now written two romances set in DC and Maryland where my characters end up “together” without the benefit of marriage.
These statutes seem to be prime examples of how the changes in society need to also be reflected in a country’s laws. What might have been necessary and acceptable in the 1700’s probably no longer apply today. Well, that’s just an opinion from an outsider looking in.
Just to be safe, I think I should decide Justin’s story “Worlds Collide” will be the last I set in USA. Yep, I think I’ll be even more determined to use known settings in New Zealand for my forthcoming stories.