When I write a story or novel, place is often the source of inspiration. I collect photographs of inspiring locales, I collect stories that rise up out of the locals of a place, the folklore of urban and suburban and rural people, I gather artifacts—talismans—that represent a place for me. The first time I visited Seattle a year ago, for instance, I brought home three white shells from the beach, and an eagle feather. When I look at them, I still see the shoreline and the mountains rising over the ocean, somehow, as if by magic, in the distance. I see the towering trees of Seattle’s rainforest, and it’s because of these items I brought home with me that I can access those images and sensory details more easily. They are not magical, but they act as if by magic in the way that they provide me with an immediate access to past memories.
Like that, I also collect talismans and other sorts of evocative artifacts in the stories I write. In One for Sorrow, the story is set in a small, dying mill town in America’s Rustbelt, a setting that is not often explored in fiction. It’s still a new landscape, and very misunderstood by most other Americans, I think, and sometimes when I look at the bookshelves at my local bookseller, I see a great absence for this place I call home. It seems everyone is reading about L.A. and NYC, or other megalopolises that have been represented over and over again in books. There’s a particularly American story to be gotten from stories and novels set in those great, hulking cities, but they are only one part of the American story. A lot of other parts of the American narrative aren’t as visible, and I think telling the story of one of America’s ghost towns through the eyes of a young man who can see the ghosts, thus being able to tell some of their stories of a American town that has disappeared over the last generation, is the reason why One for Sorrow made that list.
America is more than bursting-at-the-seams-with-dreams hyper-urban places. There are many places in America where dreams have fled, or died, or have been forgotten. And their stories tells as much a tale about America as the cities that dominate our American imaginations.
What place do you think is overlooked in modern-day literature? How would you write about it?
*Note* The above blog post is a guest blog from author Christopher Barzak. This content does not necessarily reflect the views of Better World Books (as our lawyers make sure we say). We love having guest bloggers and invite you to email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in covering a book or topic on the BWB Blog. Thank you, Christopher, we appreciate the insight on your novels. For more info on Christopher, visit his blog.