So this summer, I have plans to head to the midwest for a few days to get a better feel for the location of my new story, TSTTW. Why did I pick the midwest since I’ve never lived there? Because I could only imagine my character’s horror at being transplanted from the big city. I wanted a place completely outside her comfort zone and mine. Sure, I could write about living in the city with rush hour commutes and the flow of tourists into and out of my daily life. But it gets boring writing what you know, and I prefer to get lost in my stories. To get out of my life and into someone else’s for a little while.
In The Curse of the Radcliffe Rubies, I created a fictitious college campus for Eldridge University. But since most of the story takes place off campus, I based the campus on a place I already knew. Lazy? I prefer to call it an efficient and creative way to revisit my college years, plucking the best parts out and plunking them down in Eldridge University. At the other end of the spectrum is the castle where most of the story takes place. I spend weeks painstakingly sketching out the layout of the entire building right down to the arrangement of the furniture. You have no idea how many times I referred to that map in the actual drafting of the novel. It was a godsend. An amalgamation of castles, chateaus, and mansions all swirled together in my head and Castle Creighton was born.
What about each character’s hometown? For me, it depends on the character and the story. Usually, characters are from a place I’ve been or lived or have some basic familiarity with. Or someone close to me does. It makes it feel more authentic to me. But there are times the story requires the character be from somewhere I’ve never been or heard of. Then I plan a trip or rely on my imagination. That is the beauty of fiction I guess. You have to have a foot in reality and another in the make-believe.