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Guest Post | Google Maps and the Writer: Creating a Realistic Book World by @ZaraWestAuthor #bookish

Books can transport us to new places and introduce us to people whose lives are very different from ourselves. How amazing is that! But have you ever thought about how the author is able to create that setting and culture and bring it to life?

One way, of course, is for the novelist to have grown up or spent time in that place. For example, many authors write about their hometowns, or to protect identities, a fictionalized version of where they lived. Having spent long periods of time in a place allows the writer to include nuances and details that only a long-time resident would know.

However, many novels are set in locations that intrigue the author, but are not somewhere familiar to them. For the adventurous author, this provides the perfect impetus to book a plane or train or rent a car and head off to places distant. My fellow Wild Rose Press author, Carol Henry, is a marvel at doing this. She writes a romantic mystery set in each place she has visited. Her most recent work, the newly released Cairo Connection, is based on her trip to Egypt.

Another way to create realistic settings is to use all the wonderful resources available to today’s authors. With the flick of a finger, a novelist can find a location on Google Maps, zoom in and walk down a street or road almost anywhere in the world. Online videos can provide views of the terrain. Video-messaging lets the novelist to talk to residents. Real estate sites provide photo and video tours of homes and businesses. Local government sites provide a wealth of detail on activities and events in the community. Sometimes there are even live cams set up in interesting spots that show the changes in weather.

Ideally, the author can combine all the above into creating a unique book world. In my series, The Skin Quartet, the characters inhabit a world that is both familiar to me and at the same time foreign. Set in Brooklyn, New York where I was born and grew up, I walked the streets and studied the atmosphere that I wanted to capture in my stories. The scent of fresh-baked bread wafting from the bakery. Couples strolling arm and arm down the street. The sounds of sirens, buses, and trains.

I also explored the area visiting people and places featured in the series. Although I am an artist by training, for example, I interviewed tattoo artists and street artists to get their unique take on life in Brooklyn.

But there were some things I couldn’t experience personally. Climbing the Williamsburg Bridge is strictly illegal. However, there are plenty of YouTube videos of daredevils doing exactly that as well as graffiti artists scaling the sides of buildings. Google maps were invaluable for planning escape routes and finding abandoned factories and rooftops and even a castle in the Catskills for my cast of characters to inhabit.

In putting all these things together, I hope I have created a rich, realistic world full of New York City artists of all kinds for my readers to experience, no matter where they live. In Under the Skin, my hero is an architect who designs bridges, but his true love is street art. I hope you enjoy his Romeo and Juliet romance.

Title: Under The Skin: Love, Fear, and Destroyed Dreams (The Skin Quartet Series Book 4)

Author: Zara West

Genre: Romantic Suspense, Romantic Thriller

Book Blurb:

Born poor and raised on the streets, celebrated bridge builder and billionaire, Mic Vargas is knee-deep in the construction of a trouble-plagued bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey. He really can't afford to take in a stray thief and fall in love with her. But when a beautiful, snappy-tongued, illegal immigrant literally drops at his feet, he becomes consumed with saving her and her family from poverty. Cat burglar, Lena Correr stopped trusting anyone long ago. Not even a rich, handsome billionaire with good intentions can break through her defenses. At least, not until an East Coast crime boss threatens her family and forces her to steal for him. Mic vows to help her and her family escape the hell they are in. But will the man Lena is coming to love succeed, or will he end up dead at the hands of an old enemy?


Lena inhaled through the soft fuzz of the scarf. It smelled deliciously clean, almost like the sheets in Mr. Rich Guy’s townhouse.

What was it about the guy? Two quick encounters and she couldn’t get him out of her head. Sure, with his sharp, dark features, he was attractive in an exotic way. But he wasn’t swoon-worthy material. He certainly didn’t have the build of a one of those heroes on the covers of the romance novels that she ogled on the drugstore racks. In fact, she didn’t think he was much taller than her own five foot five.

Nice lips though. Kissable lips. Full on the bottom with a slight upturn at the corners.

She gave herself a hard shake. Imagining kissable lips on a rich bastard who probably thought her a disgusting crook meant she was either a first-class idiot or having a brain freeze. A gust a wind buffeted her. Right now, she’d vote for the brain freeze. Cielos, it was cold enough to freeze a heck of a lot more than her brain. She wiggled her fingers in the thin gloves and hurried up the street.

But she couldn’t stop thinking about Leather Jacket. Probably had a rich papa and a gilt inheritance. Tomorrow, she’d go to the library with the boys, and while they read in the children’s section, she’d use the computer there to look up Mircea Vargas.

Buy it Now:

Author Biography:

Award-winning author Zara West loves all things mysterious, adventurous, and heart-stopping as long as they lead to true love. Swept off her feet by her own Indiana Jones, Zara has followed sheep and goats up and down mountainsides in Greece, Crete, and Italy, been stranded on the banks of the Rhine with no money and one chocolate bar, and while she has never been kidnapped, she has been abandoned on an island in the middle of the wilderness for longer than she wants to remember. Now she writes books for the romantic adventurer in us all.

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