Imaginary Homesickness

Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon

I’m nearing the end of a writing project, and already I miss Clara and Nick, the lovers whose story it is. I miss Book Nirvana, Clara’s imaginary bookshop–a place now so familiar that I could lead you down the aisles and help you find just the book you’re looking for. I miss Coffee Dreams, the café next door, and Arnie, its snarky barista. I miss Clara’s employees, white-haired, affable Harry and elfin, spike-haired Margot, both dispensers of wisdom as Clara struggles to keep her business and her heart open. I miss Lulu, the orange tabby whose fur carries that faint vanilla-like scent of old books. And I especially miss Jared, Clara’s late husband, who visits her in her dreams.

I miss Clara’s made-up neighborhood, and the slow green slide of the Willamette River through Alton Baker Park in Eugene, Oregon—a city I’ve only visited via Google images. (I will visit soon, though, to make sure I haven’t painted a false picture of that city.) I miss the characters’ funny banter, Clara’s angst and guilt and budding hope. I miss her resilience, too. And I miss Nick’s velvety baritone, the amber flecks that glimmer in his espresso-brown eyes.

As this one’s a romance, its end means good-bye to characters I’ve been living with and a world I’ve been living in for several months. The hero and the heroine are about to be united in matrimony and, according to the rules of the genre, their adventure is done. And I’ll miss them.

Somehow, setting a book in my real-life hometown of Tacoma, Washington seems less—I dunno—romantic? Perhaps I’ll challenge myself to set a romance novel there. That would give me an excuse to delve into neighborhoods, shops, cafes, bars, searching for the perfect settings for a love story. Hmm—that also sounds like a recipe for procrastination.

Because mysteries tend to run in series, I can revisit Lola’s imaginary, hippie-dippy town on the Northern California coast, can spend more time with that cast of characters. I wonder how many writers choose to write series simply because they can’t bear to say good-bye to their imaginary worlds.

Leave a Reply