One thing I love about reading is the ability it affords me to travel without leaving my comfy chair. Writing fiction set elsewhere is even more fun, allowing me to immerse myself in places I’d like to live, at least for a while, be they real or invented.
When starting the first book in my current romance series, I basically picked Eugene, Oregon, out of a hat. I was looking for a charming college town in which to set a quirky bookshop, and recalled hearing that Eugene, home of the University of Oregon, was just such a place. Why not choose the area around the University of Washington, only a 90-minute drive away? I really don’t know. Not different enough to be satisfying? Maybe it’s just my dislike of Seattle traffic that held me back. (So I drove four-plus hours to Eugene, because–logic.)
Anyway, I’ve just returned from my very first research trip for a book. Hubs was away for a golf-o-rama with his son, so I took advantage of this free time to go have a look at this setting I’d chosen without much forethought. Hours of looking at pictures, maps, and reading various blog posts helped, but this short visit (hopefully not my last) gave me a much better feel for the flavor of this culture-rich town. I had a lovely time, too, despite a brain-fuzzing head cold. There’s something refreshing about solo travel, especially being able to wander at my own pace and follow my own whims.
My stories involve a bookstore, a lovely park, and a running club. Eugene is known as Track Town, USA, so running paths abound, especially in and around Alton Baker Park. I also needed alluring places for romantic dates, and charming, quirky neighborhoods.
I really must challenge myself to write a story set in Tacoma. The Gritty City would be a good setting for a tale of suspense, maybe something involving glass-blowing, an art form our city is famous for, thanks to Tacoma native Dale Chihuly.
Perhaps the urge to set a story elsewhere, rather than at home, is just human nature—the old greener-grass elsewhere syndrome. How about you? Do you tend to set your stories somewhere familiar, or further afield?