This novella is a first for me. Place Setting is my very first solo published work. I had so much fun working with CJ Burke & Ashlyn Kane on Babe in the Woodshop, laughing and chatting as we worked that as a new(ish) writer, I was curious about how it would be to write on my own – turns out, it’s just as fun, just a different flavor of fun.
I definitely felt more immersed as I was writing, and definitely realized how important it is that I can visualize everything – not just how my protagonists look, but their homes, their cars, their neighborhoods and even things that might never make it into the story proper, but that I need to see in my mind’s eye in order to make the words come out. I even made a Pinterest board to corral some of the images I found
With that in mind, here’s a list of eight things I see when I think about the world of Place Setting.
- The local grocery is a BI-LO, a pretty standard chain in the southeast and like most supermarkets, pretty unremarkable looking. When I was a kid though, some BI-LO stores had fiberglass cows on the roof and I still imagine them this way. So the store in Summer Corners? Cows on roof.
- The Stick Shack, Cameron’s get away place on the river, is based on similar cottages (I use the term loosely) friends has at lakes or rivers. Some were regular houses, others manufactured homes or souped-up trailers. They almost all had mismatched furniture (all the better for muddy boots, I reckon) and weren’t fancy but comfy.
- Wisteria and azaleas are coming. This book is set just a fortnight or so before the profusion of colors seen when the azaleas and wisteria come into bloom. It’s my favorite time of year in the south, where lavender and pink and red and white blooms are nestled in the green leaves.
- Football paraphernalia is everywhere. When Gray and Cameron visit the local diner, the booth they choose is decorated with University of South Carolina Gamecocks items. Sandlappers (that’s the nickname for South Carolinians) love their football, and it’s common to see local businesses supporting their local or the favorite team. In this case, the Gamecocks but a shoutout to current NCAA football champs, the rival Clemson Tigers too.
- Appetizers aren’t just starters for many southerners. For many families, including my own, nibbles and party foods can be more fun to make- and eat, than any other foods. They can be fancy or not, but they are always delicious. I knew how to make canapes and make a party punch before I could boil an egg. Cheese straws, ham biscuits, pimiento cheese on crackers, there are too many to list (but I’m making a try over on my Pinterest).
- Speaking of food, eating local may be trendy (and long may it be so!) but where I grew up in the rural south, we were fortunate enough to grow a lot of our food or get it from close by. Once when I was visiting my grandmother she asked if I’d like asparagus with lunch. When I told her yes, please that would be nice, she handed me some old scissors and pointed to the garden. You can’t beat that. Even today, my family has a favorite “shrimp guy” and woe be unto the person who goes to the superstore to buy lesser (yet more expensive!) stuff!
- Open air weddings are common where I’m from where almost all-year around you can have a wedding under a tent, in a barn, or spilling out from a home with the doors open (especially if you have a nice deep porch). In Place Setting, gray’s sister Jess struggles to find the right place for her wedding. She wants charming, but comfortable and she definitely doesn’t want anything that celebrates the antebellum era – a preference that thankfully is becoming more and more common. The barn Cameron finds is also based on a building near my family’s home. I’ve never seen it fixed up for a party, but it would be lovely!
- Preppy summer clothes. I admit that Gray dresses like half the fellas I went to high school with. He’s tan and blond so the pastels are especially flattering, especially his pale pink chino shorts. There’s a woven belt and boat shoes involved too, of course. Cameron wears oxfords for work, but he’s a flip-flops as often as possible kind of guy. He’s also fond of tees that advertise for local businesses. (He probably has a Piggly-Wiggly tee shirt; I know I do.)
Check out Place Setting today!
Cameron Dunlop has lived in the Lowcountry town of Summer Corners, South Carolina, his whole life. He loves his home, but his little town in the Deep South doesn’t offer much in the way of dating options.
Chef Gray Callahan has enjoyed success in the kitchen, but his last relationship sunk like a bad soufflé. When plans for his sister’s wedding go awry, it provides the perfect excuse to pack up and go home, where he can help out as he decides how to start his life over.
Gray’s path crosses Cameron’s, and he realizes together they might have all the ingredients to save the day—with maybe enough left over for something sweet just for the two of them.
Claudia Mayrant has been exploring the world around her since she was old enough to get around under her own power. Her early travels took her on her bicycle “all the way to but not on the main road.” Happily, since then, she’s enjoyed visiting as many places as she can, from bustling marketplaces and enchanting castles to funky dives. She can’t possibly decide which she likes best, but details of her favorite people, places, and things usually get put in the fiction blender so they can make an appearance in her stories. Claudia maintains that each new adventure requires the appropriate footwear, which explains her closet. Her passion for taking photographs of the things she sees, does, and eats far exceeds her skill with the camera, but no matter the setting, she has fun trying to get a good shot.
For all her love of travel, she’s most relaxed back in the South on a Gulf Coast beach with good friends, refreshing beverages, and plenty of sunscreen. Her smartphone isn’t literally connected to her hand, but anyone would be forgiven for thinking so.