Monday, September 29, 2014

Linda Maria Frank Talks About Turkey, the Setting for Her Third Annie Tillery Mystery

In an interview I was asked what I did about “Writers’ Block”. In the first two books of the Annie Tillery Mysteries, I did not experience the dreaded blank brain/blank page syndrome. I attribute that to the settings of both, The Madonna Ghost on Fire Island, and Girl with Pencil, Drawing in NYC.
Because I knew those setting so well and loved them just as well, the story could sometimes just flow on the backs of descriptive passages and historical accounts. The development of characters became easier, because of the placement of plot elements in specific settings in these two novels. The settings helped me to capitalize on specific personality traits that were evoked by the settings.

The third of the series, Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys, set in Turkey, was not as easy. Although I visited Turkey to research the book, the fabulous setting I found there were not a part of my soul. I had to really work hard to achieve a credible air of intimacy with the settings tha
t I had conveyed to my readers in books one and two.

I was excited to have the book set in both Istanbul and Cappadocia. I had come upon a description of the archeological dig, a real place called Catalhoyuk, in an archeology journal, and was fascinated by the fact that it was the oldest known town ever found (9,000yrs.). The area where it exists is Cappadocia, rich with ancient history from Hittites to Christians to the “cave people”, as they like to be known, of the present. “Fairy chimneys” is the name given to the weird geological formations that exist there. The stone is so soft that inhabitants carve them into dwellings.

My tour of Turkey included much time in Cappadocia, allowing me to take many pictures and absorb the atmosphere of the place. As I wrote the book, I was gratified for the notes I took, and even wrote passages of the book and adjusted the chapter outline to make it fit what I saw. My photos were invaluable. I had a super guide book that helped me with words and phrases. I took note of peoples’ names, so that I could use authentic Turkish names in the book. I felt that Cappadocia almost became one of the characters in the book with its dry vegetation, dust, and of course, fairy chimneys.
Istanbul, once Constantinople, was captivating. This city setting can still be conjured up just by closing my eyes. The bazaar exceeded my expectations. It was a total assault on the senses. A surprise was the Cistern, a museum of the city’s ancient underground water system. It was so unusual, and its underground passages and chambers had to figure into the story.

As a writer, the lessons I took from my Turkey setting are: really research the setting. If you can’t go there, study maps, view travelogues, and learn the history of the place. Google maps and images are a great help too. I reviewed the tours we took on my Turkey trip, especially the walking ones, along with my photos and notes.

There needs to be a balance between setting, character and plot, but setting for me can be one of your characters, one that can provide your main characters with endless possibilities.

Linda Maria Frank, retired from a career teaching science, including forensic science, resides on Long Island and is currently writing the Annie Tillery Mysteries: The Madonna Ghost, Girl with Pencil, Drawing and Secrets in the Fairy Chimneys. She also produces The Writer’s Dream, her local access TV show, seen on YouTube.


Palmaltas said...

I was so intrigued by the author's adventures in Turkey that I went to Amazon and bought the book!

Linda Maria Frank said...

Thanks. This was a fun book to write.