Let’s Have a Conversation About Places of the Imagination

The title to this post is my poem for today.  I would actually prefer to have a conversation with you that doesn’t involve verse.

Here’s a question for you: Do you write on location, or do you rely on memory and imagination?  I’ve been thinking about this because I am currently writing my serious, to-be-published-someday novels in the middle of the desert, even though they are set at the Oregon coast.  Even though I used to live in North Bend, OR, the coast in my novels is a place of the imagination, and I like it that way.

I don’t think I could write a story that was set in my little town in the desert.  As it is, I’m pushing my own limits by writing a New Mexico Noir here on this blog.  If I hadn’t chosen Albuquerque as a backdrop, I might already be bored with it.  Albuquerque, you see, is a place of the imagination for me, since I don’t live there.  The city has retained its mysteries and magical elements, despite the fact that rarely a month passes that I don’t drive up there.

The key, I think, is for me to be familiar enough with the setting in order to capture its essence, without viewing the local color, the flora and fauna, through my humdrum day-to-day filter that blocks out important details. 

Here’s another one: Do you appreciate books that take you far away from your own world?  Many of my readers either write or read historical fiction.  Some enjoy fantasy.  I will read almost any genre of book, but I have a special place in my heart for travel memoir.  Through this genre, I have traveled all over the world, and my wanderings have caused me no heartache or heartburn, no language barriers, nor any fuss at all.  Yet, the magic of fascinating places has filled my imagination.  Currently, I’m reading Julia Child’s My Life in France and Daphne Phelps’s A House in Sicily.  For fiction, I’m reading Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach, which transports me to England in the 1960s and Colm Toibin’s The Heather Blazing, which is a narrative that is primarily set in modern-day Ireland.

I also enjoy ditching Europe and traveling to India and China and Mexico.

What books are you currently reading, or have read, that spark your imagination?

Finally, what are you writing right now, and what is the status of your book?  Personally, I have one book–set in North Bend Oregon–that has been with an agent for nearly three months.  I’m writing another book that is set against the backdrop of this same rainy, weather-beaten place.  I’d like to tell a story of more exotic areas of the world, but the truth is I’ve never actually been off the North American continent–except in my imagination.  Sigh.

Someday, I’ll become an actual world traveler.  I’m almost positive the heartburn will be worth it.  Meanwhile, time for bed and dreams of an imaginary Sicily.

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