by Liz Flaherty
I had the idea of blogging about the settings for our books, offering up a travelogue. it was an easy thought for me because most of mine have been here in Indiana, right close to where I live. Oh, except for the ones that were in Kentucky. And Tennessee. And Vermont, the homeland of my heart. The Internet makes it easy to research different places, but it doesn't make it easy to hear those places. Or smell the sea if you're inland. Or stand rapt at the foot of a mountain if you're on flat land. That's where being writers comes in.
I named a tearoom in Every Time We Say Goodbye Seven Pillars. The real ones are a set of caves on the Mississinewa River.
Both that book and my next one, tentatively titled It Was Written In the Stars, take place on a fictitious lake just over and down a piece from where I live. Here is Lake Manitou, the REAL Miniagua.
|Photo by Chris McGuire|
Back to McGuffey's was set in the fictitious town of Fionnegan, a pretty little place in the shadow of Wish Mountain. Neither of them exist anywhere except my heart, but I "found" them after visiting Jay Peak...
I love the pictures, both Helen's and the ones I've borrowed for here, but more important than how pretty they are is how they make you feel. Helen mentions below that she can "summon up total sensory recall..." I know jealousy is ugly...but I am. Other than the sound of the ocean and 1960s music--yes, really--not much calls up my senses. I have to find them in pictures.
When I look at Manitou's picture, I remember the smell of summer on the lake. Jay Peak makes me remember driving to its top on a skinny little road. I found out I could hold my breath for a really long time. The picture of Danville brings back the sounds in the general store.
I tend to use big old Victorian houses in my books, and I'll look them up while I'm writing so I can hear the sound of footsteps on the hardwood floor of a high-ceilinged room.
I guess my travelogue became more of a sail through the senses, but I never seem to finish a post the way I start one. I'll be entering the editing process for It Was Written In the Stars soon--that tendency might come back to haunt me!
Have a great day. Where are we going, Helen?
by Helen DePrima
I love Liz’s idea for a travelogue of settings for our books. Although I do occasionally set brief segments in places I’ve never visited, I depend heavily on locations where I can summon up total sensory recall – scents, the songs of birds native to an area, the taste of local foods, even the feel of the air on my face.
To this point, I’ve set my books in the mountain West and in my home state of Kentucky from which I can draw an endless supply of sensations. I’ve helped move cattle; I’ve climbed through the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde and experienced the white-knuckled crossing of Wolf Creek Pass I described in Luke’s Ride, the third novel in the Cameron’s Pride series. I’ve also spent many hours attending Professional Bull Riding events, listening and observing from public seating and behind the scenes to catch the sounds and smells, the cadence of voices to pirate for my dialogue. I set great store by authenticity; nothing turns me off faster in a book than a flagrant error in what might be probable or at least possible. My tastes in both reading and writing are set firmly in reality.
One locale calling to me lately is coastal Maine. Living only an hour from the New Hampshire-Maine border, I’ve spent considerable time both on the shore and crewing on a friend’s 40-foot ketch between New Hampshire and Boothbay Harbor, Maine. A tale set on a private island Down East has been clamoring for my attention lately. Maybe it’s time to exchange the smell of sagebrush for the scent of rockweed at low time, the touch of fog and the cries of seabirds for desert air and magpies’ chatter. A new venue, a fresh start.