Write About the Places You Know by Dana Perry

Writing.ie | Resources | Better Fiction Guides | The Art of Description
Dana Perry

Dana Perry

Dana Perry, author of The Nowhere Girls, on just how important location is in most of our favorite crime novels.

“Write about what you know” is a piece of advice given frequently to authors of crime fiction like myself.

In other words, if you’re a lawyer, write a legal thriller. A doctor, make it a medical investigation. A journalist, have a reporter chasing a big story. The idea is you’ll bring a real sense of authenticity and knowledge and expertise to your novel by doing this.

I pretty much agree with this approach.

But I would like to take it a step further.

Write about “where” you know too!


Just think about how important location is in most of our favorite crime novels.

Philip Marlowe in LA. Spenser in Boston. V.I. Warshawski in Chicago. Jessica Fletcher in Cabot Cove. Stephanie Plum in New Jersey. And on and on. You always feel like you are in one of these places when you are reading the book.

For me, the best way – the only way – to accomplish that as an author is not to simply do research on a location online or in a library, but to actually live in a place.

At least, that’s what I’ve done for my books.

I have lived and worked in New York City most of my life. And many of my books are based in New York City. Lots of reviewers have commented about the “New York feel” they have. Well, that’s something you can’t get from just looking up information on the Empire State Building or Times Square.

The-Nowhere-GirlsMy new book The Nowhere Girls, featuring an FBI agent named Nikki Cassidy chasing a serial killer, needed to be set in a small town for the story to work. So I placed it in a small town in southeastern Ohio. I’m from Ohio originally, and I went to college in a small town in southeastern Ohio. You can see the pattern here.

Even when I have a character take a brief trip to another location, I pick a spot that i have spent actual time in – like Los Angeles or Washington or other spots I’ve visited – to make sure I’ve got the location details down right.


Can’t you just get everything you need by going online and doing research about a place?

Not always.

Take New York City, for instance. There’s a road in lower Manhattan called Houston Street. Except it’s not pronounced like the city of Houston. Instead, it’s “How-ston Street.”

You might not pick up on that if you just read about Houston Street somewhere, instead of being in New York and hearing people talk about it. And you sure don’t want one of your characters comparing Houston Street to the name of the city unless you know what you’re talking about! Or there’s Avenue of the Americas. That’s the official name for another big street in New York City. Except no one calls it that. It’s just Sixth Avenue in New York.

Things change in many places too, and you might not always find the most updated facts in your research.

I remember a few years ago when I wrote a book about a modern-day journalist investigating the long ago JFK assassination who goes to a building in New Orleans where Lee Harvey Oswald once spent time. I got the exact location of the building online. I got a lot of information about it that way too. But fortunately, before I finished the book, I visited New Orleans and discovered the building no longer existed. It had been torn down a few years earlier and replaced by a completely different structure. So there was no way my character could have visited the original building now.

Little things like this can be very important. Sure, you can make up fictional locations for a book. But if you do try to talk about real places, it better be accurate.

Of course, I mix real facts with fiction in my current book The Nowhere Girls.

The people, the events, the places where my character Nikki Cassidy goes are all made up by me.

But the town itself – a small town in southeastern Ohio – is based on reality.

How did I manage to do that?

Because I actually lived in a small town in southeastern Ohio just like this one.

And so I “know about ‘where’ I write” for it.

I like to think that will help make The Nowhere Girls seem like the real deal to readers.

(c) Dana Perry

Contact Dana at DanaPerryAuthor@yahoo.com
Facebook: @danaperryauthor

About The Nowhere Girls by Dana Perry:

The-Nowhere-GirlsMy kid sister was murdered fifteen years ago. Now the killer has struck again. And this time, I’m going to take my revenge…

On the anniversary of her sister’s death, FBI agent Nikki Cassidy takes a call that has her heart pounding in her chest, the image of her beautiful sister Caitlin etched in her mind.

Another girl has been taken.

Days later, the lifeless body of twelve-year-old Natalie Jarvis is found in a remote patch of woodland, a crown of roses delicately placed on her head. Just like Caitlin.

The killer is back.

Nikki rushes to her small hometown of Groveton, Ohio. She will do anything to stop another young girl dying, but she soon realises that nothing is what it seems—everyone in her hometown is keeping a secret. And when a note is discovered near Natalie’s body addressed to Nikki, it’s clear what the murderer really wants: her…

She’s caught killers before, but this time it’s personal. And Nikki will risk everything—even her own life—to get justice for every victim. It’s time to stop this twisted killer, once and for all…

If you love reading Lisa Regan, Robert Dugoni and Kendra Elliot, you won’t be able to put down this gripping new series. Full of heart-racing twists and turns, you’ll be hooked!

Order your copy online here.

About the author

I am a New York City author who writes mystery thrillers under the pen name of Dana Perry – and also as R.G. Belsky. My new crime thriller for Bookouture, The Nowhere Girls, is the first in a series featuring Detective Nikki Cassidy.
Contact me at DanaPerryAuthor@yahoo.com
Facebook: @danaperryauthor

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get all of the latest from writing.ie delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured books