I always find it interesting to read books from writers who live in a completely different climate from me, especially if it’s somewhere like Australia or something, which is basically the complete opposite to Canada. See, I write about snow a lot. Snow is a major reality for me, because even here in Southern Ontario, we get winters that last basically from October/November to April. That’s 7 months, guys. And that’s not even counting frosty nights in September and May. Plus I set a lot of my stories in my area, because that’s what I know.
And a lot of other writers do the same thing. Stephen King writes about Maine, for example. It’s a lot easier to write a setting when you have familiarity with it; going back to Australia, I’ve never been and I could never get the little things about Australia that a native would know. And I doubt that an Australian, unless they’ve travelled a lot/lived elsewhere, would know anything about snow and winter.
They could write a story about someone who lives in Ontario, but would they understand the feeling of scraping ice off your windshield when it’s -20? Would they know that you can use windshield wiper fluid to remove light frost if you’re in a rush (though you might have to do it more than once until the windshield warms up a bit), and would they understand that you had best have a backup container in your car because you use that shit like it’s going out of style? Have they ever shovelled a foot of snow by hand because they have to go to work tomorrow, dammit, and otherwise they can’t get out of the bloody driveway? Could they describe that feeling of a quiet night when the snow is falling down straight, how everything glows, how sound is muffled and everything smells crisp?
On the other hand, I would have no idea how to write about, say, the Australian Outback. I’ve never been through a dust storm. I bitch about the heat here during summer, but it’s nothing compared to Australia. If I set a story in Australia, I bet it wouldn’t ring true to anyone who’s actually been there.
This isn’t a call-out or anything, I just think it’s really fascinating to think about. And it comes back to mind whenever I read something set in a place that’s really different to my own climate and experiences. Like, there’s a Tumblr post I saw the other night where someone wrote about the ocean as a womb, not as a scary place, because they lived in Hawaii. I like reading these different experiences because it helps remind me that my experience is not the be-all, end-all experience.