t’s the age old advice that older writers, who have been doing it for years give to newer writers who are just starting out and have no idea what to write. But I have to say that I disagree, I mean if I just wrote what I knew, all of my characters would be brooding writers, who are perpetually single, often mistaken for a woman, have a tendency to fall for otherwise unattainable men, and with an inner monologue that sounds like Carrie Bradshaw, living in, not-so-fabulous (by the way) Las Vegas.
I’m not entirely opposed to writing about writers, we do it all the time, and frankly Eric is a writer although you wouldn’t know it for how little he actually writes in the stories) but as writers we have the opportunity to write whatever we want. Especially in today’s world you can write a story set half way across the world in a place you’ve never been too and still have it sound as believable as if you’d set it in your hometown. Sure it would be easier to write what you know and this is perhaps good advice for someone just starting out, but after a certain point I believe authors should branch out beyond what they know. Beyond what is safe and write characters and places that require some amount of research to get right.
I’ve never been to London, and I’ve only been to Manhattan once, but certain scenes of my novels have been set in both places, and it required a bit of research to make sure that when I wrote where events took place that I was as accurate as possible in my description, particularly where street names are concerned. Thanks to things like Google Maps and Google Earth, researching locales is easier than ever for a writer, and to my mind it’s kind of fun too. Who says you can’t write a novel about a astrophysicist living in Moscow just because you’ve never been there and aren’t an astrophysicist? You don’t necessarily have to get technical for it to be believable and god knows for your readers sake it might be better if you didn’t get technical (believe me after a few chapters of random math in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest I was ready to send my head through a wall. Truthfully there’s a lot about that trilogy that bothered me, chief among them the authors tendency to fall into a mix of journalistic and police report style writing.
Ultimately what your characters do for a living and where they live doesn’t necessarily have to be bound by where you yourself live or even what you do. Sure, having been a lawyer may help if you want to write crime novels, but it doesn’t necessarily make you any more adept to do so than anyone else.