When I set out to write my second novella for Carina Press, I only knew one thing: the heroine would be Lady Alice, the rejected almost-fiancée we never quite meet in Improper Relations. Beyond that, I had a blank slate in front of me.
It took weeks of brainstorming, coffee and chocolate before it hit me: I’d set my novella somewhere different. Really different. I wanted to experiment with the setting—move away from the drawing rooms and assembly halls of English high society, and into the open air of…where, exactly?
We writers are always being cautioned to write what we know. Although I’ve never climbed a mountain (I’m burdened by a crippling fear of heights), I did spend some years working as a copy editor for an extreme sports magazine. Although I never was inspired to take up paragliding or heli-skiing or ultra-marathoning, a few things stuck with me, and one was a growing interest in the early history of alpinism. What motivated those early pioneers of mountain climbing? Who were they, and why did they choose to risk their lives for the chance to stand at the top of the world?
I went to the window and forced myself to admire the entrancing view. Oceans of sky so blue it nearly hurt my eyes, a few stray clouds scudding by, and above all the inescapable mass of the mountains, so near and yet so remote, their upper slopes heavy with snow even in high summer. It seemed impossible that men had stood atop those peaks to stare down at the world below.
The more I read, the more I knew I had a potential hero—and not only that, I had the perfect setting for Improper Arrangements. By sending Alice and Elijah off on their own, unconfined by the strictures of polite society, surrounded by the overwhelming beauty of the Alps, I would free them to explore what really mattered: their hopes, their dreams and their growing feelings for one another. Alone on the High-Level Route, their lives would be reduced to the most essential elements: food, water, shelter and (let’s be honest here) sex. Lots and lots of sex.
My universe was reduced to this, to Elijah, to the sound of his every breath, the scent of his skin, the heat of his touch. I needed nothing more. I desired nothing else. Nothing beyond him, in this moment, in this void that enveloped us.
Now it’s your turn to share: do you like it when authors take a chance on an unconventional setting? Or are you part of the “strictly ballroom” camp when it comes to such things?
Juliana Ross is a former copy editor who is now a full-time writer (when she’s not helping the kids with homework, complaining about never-ending piles of laundry or walking the dog). You can find her at her website, her Twitter feed, her Facebook page and her Goodreads account.