I’ve read some interesting blog posts on setting preferences. Urban or rural. Big city or small town. Downtown or suburb. Great apartment with chrome and glass or old farmhouse with squeaky doors and sprawling porches complete with sleeping cats. Such choices, and aren’t we the lucky ones because we get to make those choices? Since I’ve found those blog posts interesting, it figures that I’m going to write another one. (It’s true—I really don’t have an imagination.)
I love cities. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun than when my daughter and I spent three days in New York. We’re planning Chicago this summer (unless we run out of summer—she’s a schoolteacher). I like Indianapolis in my home state and Burlington, Vermont. Montreal is amazing. Nashville, Louisville…well, any city where I don’t have to drive. There is so much to do, so much to see, and no responsibility beyond good manners. As a tourist, I don’t have to become intimate with a city’s problems—I only have to not add to them.
So it makes sense to me that I would set my stories in cities. The research alone is enough reason to do so, and how cool to relive the excitement in the story. Right?
Most of my books have taken place in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. I mention cities in passing, but Peacock, Taft, and the Ridge barely even have stoplights. There’s nothing to do in any of them, but there are lots of porches, sleeping cats, and squeaky doors. I sometimes think I am as invested in these fictitious towns as I am in my own community, where—like the song about a particular Boston bar says—“everybody knows your name.” The problems in these communities (and mine) are my problems. I don’t leave them behind when I go home.
My class reunion’s coming up here in a week or two—no, never mind which one; this is not an AARP blog!—and I’ve been helping with the class book. We’re doing an “in loving memory” page of the classmates we’ve lost. I typed their names and the dates of their deaths and wrote a little tribute thing. And mourned their loss all over again. Not that we were all friends—no, of course we weren’t, but we meant something to each other. Those of us who still meet up every five years at the class reunions—we still do. We are glad to see each other in ways I doubt any of us can explain. I was the geekiest of the geeks, but now the cheerleaders and the jocks and the geeks all laugh at—and remember—the same things.
That’s the reason I write about small towns with squeaky doors and sprawling porches and sleeping cats. Because that’s where I’m invested, where I know everybody’s name and they all mean something to me.
What are your favorite settings? And why?