Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Danielle Thorne's 'The Privateer' - creating an island

Thank you, Lindsay, for having me here today. I enjoyed your theme last month at Lindsay’s Romantics on animals that we love and treasure. Environmental awareness should be on everyone’s minds these days, and using animals in our stories can help educate readers while entertaining.

It’s amazing how we can incorporate characters into our novels that aren’t human. And I don’t mean just animals. A haunted mansion, a small rural town, or even a tropical island, settings can become characters in and of themselves.

When I wrote my historical, THE PRIVATEER, it was really important to me to create an island that was so real that a reader might believe it actually existed. After I found a location to use in the Leeward Islands (islands in the area of and including Antigua, St. Kitts, and so on), I drew a map of my island with notations for the colony, the homes of my characters, and places of interest. I even included the topography of the land so my heroine would be climbing in the right places, and racing along flat stretches of beach exactly where she should be.

Most importantly, I learned the aspect of creating a setting with its own personality was to truly be able to see it in my own mind’s eye. I studied photographs of Caribbean islands, both modern and historical. As luck would have it, I was able to schedule a three day trip to the Caribbean get a feel for the elements. I even paid close attention to set details of current films. Who can forget the stark impression Port Royal makes on us in the opening scenes of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” when Elizabeth Swann is shown at home? Before I even started my manuscript for THE PRIVATEER, the home of Julius Bertrand and Kate O’Connell was a vivid three-dimensional world in my head. I only had to get it down on paper.

What are some of your favorite non-human characters? Stephen King’s CHRISTINE? Scarlett O'Hara's Tara? Or how about New Orleans in Anne Rice’s INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE? Since creating my romantic island of San Madrid for THE PRIVATEER, I have realized I love creating and writing intriguing character settings, almost as much as I enjoy reading about them.

Danielle Thorne

Pirates, secret cargo, and avaricious women-Everyone is out to undo THE PRIVATEER!


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[This piece was posted as part of Classic Romance Revival's Carnival event. Contest winners are listed here:

A CRR free read package for the 100th lucky subscriber is still available - we are so nearly there! It could just be you! While you're at the CRR blog, look for the subscribe2 block in the sidebar, enter your email address and click send.]


Jane Richardson, writer said...

Hi Danielle,
I LOVE this post, and you've really made me want to read The Privateer! What you've done to turn an imaginary setting into a real place sounds wonderful. I so agree with a setting having its own personality. One of my favourite writers, Anita Shreve, sets many of her novels in New Hampshire. She uses a whole range of time periods, economic situations, even different social classes, but the sea and the landscape is always an integral part of the book. Its topography and its different moods all affect the characters’ feelings and emotions, and often it has a dramatic effect on the plot. You’re right, the character setting is just as important as the characters themselves, and often becomes a ‘character’ in its own right. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on this.

Jane x

Lindsay Townsend said...

I agree with all you say, Jane! This is a super post, Danielle! Thank you!

Danielle Thorne said...

Thx, Jane. I totally agree and think the setting SHOULD become a character.

Savanna Kougar said...

Wow! Impressive. I luv that you've so meticulously created your island and your world.
Scarlett's Tara is definitely one of my faves... has I ever had the ability to do it, I would created my own version of the plantation and held balls for everyone to enjoy.
Building the tangerine-colored planet-world in one of my novels was similar to what you accomplished. And it was a blast, as well as a challenge.

Kaye Manro said...

What a great post Danielle!

I couldn't agree more. Setting can come alive. I can relate to how you created your story-- I did the same thing with a story set on the coast of Maine in a fishing village--maps, the people, the lobstering trade--it all just became so real it lived in me-- even before I wrote the story.

Good luck with The Privateer. It sounds wonderful!

Bekki Lynn said...

When it's a natural part of the story and the characters it comes alive in ways you may not realize -- this is how I write the settings.

I love the movie 'Car' much better than I did 'Christine' - the mysterious dark windows, the face in the smoke when it was destroyed. There are a couple movies about other vehicles coming alive and threatening humans -- I love them.

Alfred Hitchcock is one of all time favorites.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Danielle,
I love the way you created a map for your island complete with beaches and mountains. It sounds like knowing your setting helped you to really know your story as well.

A farm on the Canadian prairies is the setting for my story "Till September". It is very important because the heroine is fighting for the survival of her farm. This setting came naturally to me because it's where I grew up, and I draw on a lot of childhood memories.

Jana Richards

Mona Risk said...

What a great post Danielle. I just discover this blog through a reference of my friend Celia. My special character in my soon to be released BABIES IN THE BARGAIN is a baby!!! A beautiful newborn that messes up hero and heroine's lives with his smiles.

Danielle Thorne said...

oh, I've already heard of Babies in the Bargain, Mona. That would be one special character to have. :) Good luck with it!

lastnerve said...

WHOOOOOHOOOOOO DANIELLE! Came out to support you. Great blog post!


Lindsay Townsend said...

Hi Danielle! As I said earlier, this is a wonderful article!!

I should make it clear to everyone- in order to win the prizes on offer at Classic Romance Revival this weekend, you will need to visit all the blogs mentioned at CRR and leave a comment on each.

There are some super articles on offer, very interesting, and the prizes are well worth having!

Lindsay Townsend said...

Here's the blog address for the CRR blog. From there you will be able to visit all the other blogs featured in this travel and treasure hunt!

Jacquie Rogers said...

Outstanding, Dani! I totally love pirate stories--will have to check yours out. :)

I guess my favorite setting as character would be Oz in Wizard of Oz.

lainey bancroft said...

The Privateer definitely goes on the list, Dani. I love the islands and since I can't be there right now, I can at least take a small tour there with a well-rounded story. =)

As a girl, I loved the 'Green Gables' I envisioned. Later, I became fascinated with Vegas after Jackie Collin's 'Chances' books and I think that swayed my decision to set part of my romance 'Jackpot' in Las Vegas.

She said...

The Privateer goes on my Wish List. I love when authors can take me away from my every day world and put me in a place that is every bit as real to me as home even if it doesn't exist. That's part of the reason I like to read. It helps me escape from everyday problems and go to exotic locales.

Kathleen O said...

Well I would have to say that at the momment my favourite non-human characters would have to be Jack and Mel and all their friends and relations of "Virgin River:...It is a community one could see themselves living in.

MarthaE said...

Hi Danielle - It sounds like you put a lot of research and detail in your Island! The book sounds interesting. I think I have always liked stories set in Ireland and Louisiana because they have rich backgrounds. I think a favorite "setting" character for me would be the Shire from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings!

Danielle Thorne said...

I never thought about the Shire. The Lord of the Rings series has several fantastic settings, doesn't it? Wow.

Miriam Newman said...

Oh, Danielle, this is great! Isn't it wonderful creating your own world?

PhyllisC said...

I am very impressed with the amount of time and effort that you put into this story. It is very interesting how you created a whole civilation. I knew that authors had to do a lot of research for their stories, but it seems like you went over and above the normal effort for this one. I have added The Privateer to my TBB list. Good luck with it!

Monya Clayton said...

Impressive research, Danielle, and obviously you worked very hard at it. I had to do a great deal for my own pirate story - I'm Australian and we have no history of piracy, so I had to discourage my local and modern mindsets. Mind you, pirates and privateers are different beasties, as we all know.

Interesting and informative!
Monya Mary

Linda Banche said...

Great research. I like it when authors go to that much trouble to make the scene real. It shows.

Babyblue22 said...

Great Post Danielle!!
The Privateer Is on my TBR List, It sounds great and I really want to see how all of your hard work and planning works in to the story. :-D

MAGGI said...

I agree, I work in much the same way, and isn't it interesting how real it becomes in our mind's eye?

Anonymous said...


As the lucky person who got to review The Privateer for CRR, I can vouch that it is definitely a book worth getting if you enjoy action and drama (which I most certainly do :) ).

The descriptions in which you depicted the settings were some of the most memorable things about your book. kudos on a job well done :)!

E.A. West said...

Great post! You put a lot of research into creating your island, and it sounds like it was worth the effort. It is so cool that you mapped out the entire island including the topography! I bet it was a labor of love. :)

Hywela Lyn said...

Lovely post, Danielle, and you're so right about the importance of settings and how they become so much a part of the story.


You made up your own island that is so awesome.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Many, many thanks to all of you for reading and commenting so generously on Danielle's wonderful blog piece! I'm thrilled you enjoyed it and I hope you also enjoyed the other blog articles shown as part of the CRR blog Carnival.

The Results of the Carnival will be announced shortly. To learn more about the next part of the CRR Carnival and the prizes, please go here:

Best wishes, Lindsay Townsend

Lindsay Townsend said...

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