Saturday, March 2, 2013

COME TO ASTORIA by Muriel jensen




Hi, Everyone!  A day late and a dollar short.  That's me! 

Really missed chatting with you on Friday, so now that Pamela fixed the problem for me, I thought we'd chat anyway. 

I live at the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Astoria is a small town where logging, fishing, and canneries made it a force to be reckoned with for much of the last century.  During World War II, the United States Navy had a large presence here.  But today the world has changed, logging and fishing have fallen off considerably and Astoria now makes its way in the tourist trade.

We are the most beautiful spot on the Columbia River, a town built on a hillside that slopes down to the river on one side, and down to Young's Bay on the other.  The hillside is green, the river is blue, and turn-of-the 20th Century homes in a myriad of colors meander down the hill from the Astor Column down to the maritime museum.  The view is spectacular in the daytime and looks like a mound of treasure when it's lit up a night.

My very first book, WINTER'S BOUNTY, is set in Astoria because I was following the "write what you know" principle.  After a few books, I completely ran out of what I knew, and worried that readers were getting tired of Oregon coastal settings.  My editor assured me that small-town, cozy settings would always remain popular.  That seems to have held true.  The few of my books that weren't set on the Oregon coast took place somewhere in Massachusetts, where I lived until the age of ten.  I was born in New Bedford, MA, the old whaling city, and can remember every store on every street between my home and the three blocks I walked to St.  Anthony's Catholic School.  It amazes me how strong those memories remain.  I was brokenhearted a few years ago when I went home to visit and found that the spot where our apartment house stood was now a parking lot.

When I lived in New Bedford, it was a city of 200,000.  When I created Maple Hill for my Men of Maple Hill series, I setit  in western MA, which is so beautiful, and has many more smaller towns.  My younger sister lives in Feeding Hills, so it's easy to get research materials.

Astoria remains my favorite setting because it has everything I need to create a romantic atmosphere.  It doesn't snow very often, but it rains all the time!  While that would be annoying to a lot of people, it's perfect for me because I stay home and work rather than go out and get soaked, and it's easy to imagine a couple stuck inside where it's cozy,  tempted to talk about their relationship.

We have several Coast Guard ships, pilot boats that guide merchant ships over the bar and up the river, tug boats that push and pull barges and other boats, and fishing boats working in their short seasons.  From my second-floor office window I have a spectacular view of the river and as I watch ships of all kinds go by, I wonder about the women waiting at home, praying for the safety of their husbands and boyfriends, and longing for them to come home.  Romance abounds right outside my window!



11 comments:

  1. Wow, Muriel, now I have somewhere on my list of places to go visit when I'm on the west coast! Love the descriptions. It does lend itself to romance.

    I've followed the write what you know philosophy to a point too. Though I do love to research the things i don't know ;)

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    1. Syndi! Thank you for fixing this! You and Pam are amazing to me to whom the ether world is magic.

      I do love research, also. It has its pitfalls, too, but if we don't plunge into the unknown, how will we ever learn?

      Thanks, Syndi!

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  2. Muriel, as someone also born and raised in Oregon I have spent many a wonderful weekend on the Oregon coast. I was once lifeguard in Warrenton at the beach there. My ivory tower I used to call where I rules from.
    My husband who served as a Marine for a number of years said he'd traveled the world over and never found any place he liked better than the Oregon coast.
    Thanks for reminding us how lovely it can be close to home.

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    1. One day we'll all have to get together here and have a wild weekend! I have a house crowded with medical stuff and animals, but if I become a bestselling Heartwarming author (isn't that what we're all hoping for? Not just for me, but for all of us?) I'll host all of you at one of our riverfront hotels! Our food is fabulous, too!

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  3. I try to follow it to, and when I don't I pay. Right now I have three proposals in. Two are set in Arizona, my home, and one is set in Wyoming. The Wyoming one took three times as long to write because every other page I'm researching LOL

    I'm coming for the wild weekend, too. Put, I'll have my 7 year old with me, so wild is determinable.

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    1. Hi! You're son is so welcome! I have to figure out how we can do this!

      I know how you feel about researching what you don't know. I've done two historical and it drove me crazy that I couldn't go back and look at my setting. There are wonderful books, all kinds of online stuff, and experts who are happy to help you - but I like to look at it! You and Syndi are so good with technology - would you work on time-travel!

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  4. I'm a day late and a dollar short on replying, Muriel! My apologies... I didn't think to check Sat... But I loved your post. Astoria sounds so poetically beautiful and I want to live there in everyone of your books. Like you, I enjoy the cozy feel of a rainy/writing day. I wouldn't mind that kind of weather at all. Setting is so important in a novel. Mine is set in NYC- a place I lived in at one point in my life- but I know it as a conglomeration of a lot of small neighborhoods rather than "the city". It's interesting to think of small town vs city but when you break a city down, it really has a lot of tightnit communities in it. Oh- and thanks for letting us all invite ourselves up to Oregon for a visit with you- I accept!- lol- :)

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    1. New Bedford was fairly large by where-I-live-today standards, but you're right. Even large, heavily-populated cities are just a bunch of little neighborhoods where people get to know each other well and love each other like small-town people do. Only difference is they're probably more transient. There's a core of people in Astoria who've lived here for generations and will probably be here far into the future.

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  5. I love your Oregon coast stories. There's nothing better than reading fiction for vicarious traveling, because so often the setting becomes a very interesting secondary character. I grew up reading Elisabeth Ogilvie and am still determined to go to Maine and find me an island that matches up to the picture she drew for her readers.

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    1. Liz - Ashamed to say I don't know Elisabeth Ogilvie. Will have to check her out. The Anne of Green Gables books gave me the same longing for Prince Edward Island. You know, of course, if you find this place you have to invite all of us. I'll bring the brownies.

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