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I'm planning a fictional novel that takes place in my local area. This area is not far from the area John Steinbeck wrote about. If you're not familiar with his work, most of his stories took place in and around Monterey and Salinas, California. All I want to know is if there might be any legal problems with doing this. I don't need permission to mention city and street names, do I? Or to mention famous local landmarks? For example, there are two of California's missions in the area, as well as Hearst Castle. Do I ask the local chambers of commerce? Most everything I'll be writing about is public, with no personal or specific business names mentioned. I just don't want to get into trouble for mentioning or even writing extensively about a certain place or thing, even though it won't be defamatory in any way, with the possible exception of something bad OCCURING at said place. That's all I'd like to know.

Dear Ina,
Thank you for your question. It all depends on the author's style. Some authors set their novels in real cities. There are some cities that seem to have more than there share too! Like Los Angeles. I enjoy reading a book set in Los Angeles because I'm from that city. So, if it's your style, absolutely set the book in the real location. The one catch is that you must get all the details right. I once wrote a scene in a writing class where my protagonist drives to work passing Westwood, Century City, Beverly Hills, etc. Three people pointed out that I had the cities out of order for the route. It's always more difficult to use a real location because a lot of people will notice if you make a mistake.
Some authors make up a fictional town. I had a writing teacher who made up a town based on Lincoln City, Oregon, which she called, "Holiday Beach." She showed us maps she drew of the fictional city that showed where her protagonist's house was in relation to his book shop, and so on.
So whether you use a real city or a fictional city, you have to know the layout, as well as the history, the local info., and how to portray it to get the effect you want. Also, go ahead and throw in a few references to Steinbeck. Just don't drown the reader in it and you should be fine.
Best to you.

P.S. My page for writers is

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Nori J. Muster


Writing and publishing books, including e-books.


I have been writing for publication since 1981, including years as a staff writer, associate editor, editorial writer, and freelance reporter. At this time, I have eight Kindle books for sale at

Lakes of Tempe Authors, Tempe, Arizona

Betrayal of the Spirit: My Life behind the Headlines of the Hare Krishna Movement
Dreaming Peace: Your Thoughts Can Change the World
Cult Recovery Handbook: Seven Paths to an Authentic Life
Child of the Cult
Learning to Flow with the Tao: The 64 Hexagrams of the I Ching
Positive Quotations: Wisdom from the Master Mind
Collected Writings: Five Books by Nori Muster
Noriland Art Gallery: Secrets from the Vault
Spiritual Summer and Other Short Stories

UCLA Extension Writer's Program, 1988 - 1994
Master's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Oregon University, 1991

Awards and Honors
USA Today, Los Angeles Times, BBC World Services Focus on Faith, BBC Sunday Programme,, Glamour Magazine, Portland Mercury News, W-Five TV (Toronto), Publisher's Weekly, Boston Phoenix, San Francisco Chronicle, ABC TV News - 20/20, ABC radio, Associated Press, The Age (Melbourne),, The New York Times, Religious News Service, Dallas Morning News, Columbia Journalism School, Whole Life Times (Los Angeles), Toronto Sun, the John Dayle Show (KFYI AM, Phoenix), the Eliot Stein Show (syndicated radio and Internet broadcast), Discovery with Josh Wagner (KKUP, 91.5 FM, Santa Clara, California), KOGO (News Radio 600, San Diego), Jupiterís Girl syndicated radio show, Lakes Log.

Book Reviews:
Publisherís Weekly, Feminist Bookstore News, Yoga Journal, New York Post, Choice Magazine, Boston Herald, Nexus (Colorado), Gentle Strength Times, Coastlines (UCSB alumni), Theology Digest, Nova Religio, Rapport, India West,,

Book Signings:
Prescott College reunion; Gentle Strength Co-op, Tempe; Different Drummer Bookshop, Laguna Beach; L.A. Times Toastmasters; Biltmore Plaza Border's Books, Phoenix; Bodhi Tree Bookstore, Los Angeles; Health & Life Enrichment Expo, Pasadena; Sacramento Reads book festival, and others.

ISKCON World Review, Van Dhal Publications, Gentle Strength Times, Arizona Woman, Lakes Log, ICSA Today, Cultic Studies Review, University of Illinois Press, Kindle,,, Apple Books, and others.

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