Here in the mountains of Western North Carolina it’s still the dead of winter. The wind blows cold across the ridge, rattling dead branches and ruffling yellowed grasses. A few dry beans remain in the bottom of the jar, collected every time there was a foggy morning in August, each one a harbinger of snow before winter is out. What gravel there was on Snowbird Road, our connection to the outside world, is buried under four inches of slippery muck, which freezes into ruts when the temperature drops and thaws again into a muddy mess when the sun hits it.
Despite Paxutauny Phil’s dire prediction of six more weeks of this, there are already signs of spring. Yesterday, a flock of robins covered my back yard, digging for sustenance in the semi-frozen earth. Certain slender young red oaks have begun to blush slightly ruddy against the hillsides, not exactly budding, but somehow preparing for a change. And the birds, silent since late September, have begun to sing in the thin sunshine.
Winter, soon to be spring. And the book I just wrote, planning to release in November, is set in winter. Only now, due to circumstances beyond my control, Not Fade Away, Interstellar Rescue Book 4, will be released in spring—April 10, to be exact. All my lovely descriptions of snow in the mountains, of bare branches and icicles and bitter winds, will be completely wasted on readers basking in the sun at the beach. Arrggh!
I suppose I could do a quick rewrite to change all the weather-related setting stuff. But I would invariably miss something in the rush to re-do the manuscript, which has been edited and formatted already. Besides, believe it or not, I already changed the setting once, early on, realizing when the original release date would put the book.
Those of you who set your books completely onboard starships are sniggering right now. No seasons to worry about for you! And, if you set your book on some other planet, who knows what their seasons are like, right? Yeah, I get it, it’s my fault if I set a large part of my books on Earth. Seasons come with the territory.
The question becomes how much readers really care about the predominant season they’re reading about. I’m re-reading Diana Galbadon’s excellent Outlander series, and her descriptions are so detailed you could never lose track of what time of year you’re in. Beautiful—and accurate—lists of bird calls and wildflowers and weather patterns. Then, again, she covers an entire year within the span of a few chapters, so you can’t get too attached to a particular season, no matter how beguiling. The setting is important—whether it’s Scotland, the West Indies or North Carolina—but the plot and the characters are so compelling that you just have to keep reading.
I have to hope that will be the case for Not Fade Away, too. Otherwise, my readers will be forced to crank up the air conditioner and pull down the shades in the warm months to set the proper wintry mood.