Another short post that actually points you to a longer post I wrote for Better World Books, a truly revolutionary online bookseller with an important mission. Several months ago, Better World Books featured my first novel on a list of books for readers who want to “travel around the world” via books.
I was surprised and excited to be named on a list that also featured Steinbeck and Fitzgerald! In this blog post at Better World Books, I meditate on why place is so important to my writing. Here’s an excerpt of the blog post:
Place, I think, is the reason why One for Sorrow might have been selected for the list. As a writer, I’m inspired by the places I’ve lived and those I visit for any length of time that allows me to sink my roots into the soil for a bit, to draw on the stories that surround and infuse any particular patch of earth. My second novel, for instance, The Love We Share Without Knowing, is set in Japan, where I lived for two years teaching English in rural elementary and middle schools. If I’d never lived in Japan for that long, I might never have written a story set there. Some writers can write about anywhere, but I don’t think they always capture the feeling or spirit of a place as a writer who has been somewhere in particular, or especially lived somewhere. They capture a setting, but not the place, and these are two different degrees of narrative, I think.
You’re right that small rust belt cities don’t often appear in stories, or for that matter, non-Chicago places of the Midwest. I remember in Sheila’s 2004 (!) horror fiction class, she talked about setting, and the challenge of setting a horror story in a not horror location- places without the spooky character. I think the Midwest is considered part of the not spooky enough for horror, not alien enough for the speculative, not interesting enough for mainstream fiction. Which is strange. Because we have a lot of ghost towns and a lot of history and plenty of odd.
I was surprised when you said they’d picked your first novel instead of your second, but on reflection, I can certainly see how One For Sorrow is a world story.