I’m always interested in taking readers to places they’ve never been before, particularly terrifying ones. The backdrop for Come Little Children is the majestic Yukon landscape, and for those of you familiar with Robert Frost’s poetry, you’ll know that it’s an incredibly beautiful territory, as well as a home for the weird and supernatural.
But why did I choose the Yukon for this particular story? And how could I teleport readers to such a remote place without having been there myself?
For me, those questions encompass the most exciting part about being a writer: exploring different worlds, deciding on settings, and, ultimately, getting to build them.
When it comes to deciding on a story’s location, inspiration can pop up from anywhere. For this particular book, I remember going through a Robert Frost phase and returning to one of his most famous lines (“There are strange things done in the midnight sun”) again and again. It didn’t spur the story of Come Little Children directly, but it helped spark an interesting motif and tie some of the paranormal elements together. I also like making connections with familiar lore, and the idea that “strange things” (plural) have happened under the Yukon moon hints that ol’ Sam from Tennessee hasn’t been the only subject of something bizarre up north. Combined with the fact that I come from somewhere extremely cold—and that I’m no stranger to having my face frozen off in the winter—I felt prepared to tackle the landscape, even though I’ve never been there in person.
So that’s why I went with the Yukon. Next was to decide whether or not to use a real town.
Ultimately, I created Nolan for three reasons:
1. Logistics. I needed a place where I had control over the town’s history and its physical layout
2. Tone. The deeper and darker into the woods, the better, so that’s where Nolan was born.
3. Suspension of Disbelief. By setting the book somewhere unfamiliar, readers don’t arrive with a lot of preconceived notions. And similar to point #2, the more uncharted the location, the better, especially since there was always going to be a supernatural element involved. In other words, it’s easier to believe that dark voodoo exists in the secluded northern wilderness than it does in downtown San Francisco.
After I chose to go with a fictional town, that’s when the world-building really began.
For the sake of this blog post, I’ll boil my process down to another three points.
1. Researching. Since I’m not a mortician, most of the designs (especially for the funeral home) were inspired by online articles and videos.
2. Sketching. Not all of my settings are fully fleshed out, but I’ll usually draw up blueprints of the more critical ones. For this story, that meant creating a detailed map of the entire village, as well as a set of blueprints for the Vincents’ morgue—all the way down to the bathrooms and broom closets. Are the closets ever mentioned? No. But does it help me picture every inch of the building? Absolutely, and that’s something a lot of authors are careful about [I can’t say for sure, but I’d be willing to bet my left bludger that J. K. Rowling still has full sketches of Hogwarts filed away somewhere.]
3. Editing. “Come Little Children” took two years to complete, and I feel many of the smaller details only surfaced after going over it again and again. A word of caution for fellow writers: your readers are continuity Nazis. If you tell people how a town is laid out—or how characters behave—and then suddenly you change something for convenience-sake, those readers will blitzkrieg der sheisse out of your Goodreads reviews. Having an editor will help catch glaring inaccuracies, but you still need to put in the time and effort to know your world better than anyone else.
That’s all for now, folks. Best of luck in your own world-building endeavors.
P.S. If you’re still wondering what kind of strange things happen in the midnight sun, I invite you to spend some time with me in Nolan and find out.
To read more about Come Little Children, visit: www.dmelhoff.com/come-little-children
Genre: Horror, thriller, supernatural thriller
Publisher: Bellwoods Publishing
Cover Artist: Carl Graves
The Nolan morgue is more than just an ordinary funeral home.
When their newest employee uncovers a supernatural conspiracy connected to a string of child murders, she must use every shred of her intelligence to stop a new breed of serial killer and escape the morgue alive.