As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.
The photo above is the cover for her October 8th release, The Light Keeper's Legacy, the third book in her Chloe Ellefson series. Hoping for solitude at last, museum curator Chloe Ellefson leaps at the opportunity to be a consultant for the historic lighthouse restoration project on Rock Island, a state park in Wisconsin’s scenic Door County. Hoping to leave her personal and professional problems at home, Chloe’s tranquility is suddenly spoiled when a dead woman washes ashore. Determined to find answers behind the mystery, Chloe dives into research about the island’s history and discovers the amazing, resilient women who once lived there. But will the link between the past and present turn out to be a beacon of hope or a portent of doom?
Sounds like a great read to me! Below is Kathleen's guest article about Location, Location, Location. Please feel free to respond to Kathleen's questions or to ask her a question of your own in the comments. Doing so will enter you into her contest for a copy of one of her Chloe Ellefson mysteries.
When I began creating the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series, I had the setting nailed down long before I developed my protagonist. I conceptualized the series because I missed the historic site where I once worked as an interpreter and curator of interpretation and collections.
In 1981 I was fresh out of college and looking for seasonal work. I’d studied environmental education at West Virginia University, with a whole lot of history and creative writing classes tossed in, too. To me, the mix made perfect sense. I love nature; I love history. And how can we begin to understand the past without understanding the relationship between people and their natural environment?
I moved from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest in order to take a job at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum. Historians had chosen almost six hundred acres within Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest to create a sprawling historic site featuring dozens of historic structures moved from all over the state. No one can truly reconstruct an historic environment, of course, but this site comes close. Wooded land, glacial ponds, and prairie remnants surround the living history museum’s homes, gardens, and fields.
I left OWW in the mid-1990s. However, I really missed the place! So in time, Chloe Ellefson developed in my imagination as curator of collections there. In Old World Murder, Chloe is trying to settle into her new job at the site. The second book, The Heirloom Murders, takes Chloe a bit farther afield by featuring a nearby Swiss-American community, but the story is still firmly rooted at OWW.
The Light Keeper’s Legacy, just out from Midnight Ink, is set entirely elsewhere. Chloe accepts a temporary consulting assignment that takes her to Rock Island State Park, just off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula in Lake Michigan. She’s charged with doing research and developing a furnishings plan for Pottawatomie Lighthouse, a real structure that was magnificently restored by The Friends of Rock Island and the Department of Natural Resources.
My husband and I have served as live-in docents at Pottawatomie, a magnificent 1858 building perched on a cliff on the roadless island. I knew it would provide the perfect setting for a Chloe mystery. The island is remote and ruggedly beautiful, and the lighthouse has a fascinating human history. What could be better?
This area is beloved vacation spot for many Midwesterners, so I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about the setting. However, I’ve also heard from a few people who—while looking forward to reading The Light Keeper’s Legacy—mention that they’ll miss the Old World Wisconsin setting. Readers who know and love the real historic site enjoy imagining each scene while reading.
I’ve long been a fan of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries, and a large part of my reading pleasure comes from knowing that I’ll be immersed in a new national park with almost every volume. I’d like to do something similar by getting Chloe to different historic sites and museums as the series progresses.
But I also understand that knowing the setting for any series can be quite enjoyable for readers who feel as if they’re revisiting a favorite place with each new book. I’m choosing to straddle the issue by keeping Chloe employed at Old World Wisconsin, but letting her visit other locations by taking consulting jobs, attending conferences, etc.
How about you? Is the familiar setting in your favorite series something you particularly look forward to, or are the human stories more important than the setting? I’d love to know your thoughts!
I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to be a guest on her blog. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a drawing; the winner may choose any of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries: Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, or The Light Keeper’s Legacy. For more information see my website or my blog.
Okay readers, I'm expecting a lot of comments and contest entries for Kathleen. Fire away!