Setting my first series in South Carolina came with no choice because the first book in my series is quasi-autobiographical. I’d been offered a bribe at my work which, in a wild unraveling of events, led to my handling internal investigations for a federal agency in South Carolina. Knowing the state like the back of my hand and loving it dearly, I used it as practically a character in the Carolina Slade series.
I showed off my state, wanting to become the Sue Grafton of South Carolina, meaning I’d put Slade’s investigations in each of the 46 counties. My mission was clearly defined for the rest of my writing career, but my publisher felt otherwise.
After three Slade books, they asked for a new series. Admitting that I loved the Carolina setting, they dared me to choose one place and stick to it. One place that had immense appeal, but also that I felt passionately about. Thus, the Edisto Island Mysteries were born.
The largest seller of my books, other than Amazon, is the Edisto Bookstore. Who’d have known that a tiny bookstore, set at the end of the world on an island, would sell hundreds of my books?
Setting defines Callie Jean Morgan in the Edisto series. She reluctantly arrived on the island, leaving her other self behind, across the Big Bridge as is said on the island. I incorporated every saying, venue, street, and custom of the island into the mysteries. On an island where everyone escapes the rat-race, where doors remain unlocked, and people relax without reservation of what others think, I created crime where people assumed there was none. The juxtaposition of nonchalance and hidden danger.
Readers loved reading about where they visited, or where they lived. They cross the marsh on highway 174 and see where the officer drowned. They drive down Pine Landing Road and envision the shootout. They cruise Jungle Shores Road trying to identify where the police chief lives. . . where her mentor was murdered. . . where her yoga mistress best friend resides a stone’s throw away. . . where the break-in took place. Readers have come to signings asking if they got the addresses right as to where things went down in the books.
And they are hungry for more. Every time they come to the beach, they want another mystery to solve. . . something else to make them peruse the island beach and envision the crime, the sleuthing, and the place where it all went down in the end.
So now, when I have a new release, I start with setting first. . . and work outward. The locale is likewise the big splash for the book announcement, like my last book, Newberry Sin. Newberry is a small town in South Carolina, and when the book came out in 2018, the Friends of the Library had a luncheon that was well attended by 200 people eager to read fiction about their town. The year I released Palmetto Poison, the tiny town of Pelion made me their guest of honor at their annual festival.
By deeply entrenching a book into a real community, I gained loyal fans who repeatedly invite me back to libraries, bookstores, and book clubs for each new release.
So if I had to define what makes my series unique, it would be a strong sense of place. Strong enough to make people want to live there. A church, a silt road, a marshy bog, or the big bay where dolphins play. Each becomes a central, pivotal point around which the characters react. . . and the crime happens. And if readers gravitate to my stories for place first rather than mystery, I’m quite happy with that, because once they savor the story, they’ll be back to read anything else….that takes place anywhere else.
BIO – C. Hope Clark’s newest release is Dying on Edisto, a crossover book set on Edisto Island, where both her series protagonists finally meet to handle a lethal situation. Hope is the author of nine novels and three nonfiction books. She is published with Bell Bridge Books. Also, she is founder of FundsforWriters.com, chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for the past 18 years. Her newsletter reaches 35,000 readers. www.chopeclark.com / www.fundsforwriters.com
One death. Two detectives. And unexpected backup.
A Callie Morgan and Carolina Slade crossover, standalone mystery!
When a renowned—and now dead—travel blogger washes ashore on the banks of Indigo Plantation, Edisto Beach Police Chief Callie Morgan agrees to head the investigation as a favor to the county sheriff, whose reasons are as questionable as the death itself. When death turns to murder and a watchdog from the county makes her investigation difficult, Callie reluctantly turns to Carolina Slade and Wayne Largo, vacationing agents with the Department of Agriculture.
Because poison is growing on this plantation and someone knows how to use it well.