Saturday, July 26, 2008

What a Place to Be From

Reading about Charles' trip to Belize has filled me with envy and discontent.  I've never been to Belize, and I want to go.  I've never been to Central or South America at all, which is just a crime.  One of my sisters lived in Santiago, Chile, for nine years, for crying out loud.

Consider the settings we choose for our novels.  Charles has thus far set all his novels in distant locales - Thailand, Egypt, India, Singapore.  Debby sets her novels in Hawaii.  Oh, so delightfully exotic!  Rick and Vicki spin tales of Canada, which is as foreign to me as England or Australia.

I write about Oklahoma (Discordant note sounds)  How very unexciting.  Plain Oklahoma, America, the West, where I grew up.  Common as dirt, which by the way, is what 'Oklahoma' means in the Choctaw language - 'Red Dirt'.

However...

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories, so pull up a chair.

Many years ago, when I was a rose-lipped maid of twenty-one, I took a flight from New York to Limerick, Ireland.  I was seated next to a lovely older woman, who was probably younger at that time than I am now, but I'm speaking relatively.  This woman and I fell into a pleasant conversation and talked for some time, until out of the blue she said, "Wherever are you from?"

This had nothing to do with the topic of conversation, so I was momentarily taken aback by her tone, but I figured out quickly enough that she was wondering about my accent.  "I'm from Oklahoma," I reply, all innocent and matter-of-fact.

She laughed!  "What a place to be from!" she said.

I was more bemused than insulted, and I asked where she was from, to which she replied, "Teaneck, New Jersey."  Then it was my turn to laugh, because in my experience, Teaneck, New Jersey, might as well be the moon.

This small incident made a lifelong impression on me, and is one of the reasons that I set my stories in a place that is as familiar to me as my own skin.  For after all, Thailand, Hawaii, and Canada may be unfamiliar to me, but to the people who live there, they're just home.

And the moral of this story is that no matter how mundane and unexciting you consider the place you live, to the great majority of the other people in the world, it's unbelievably exotic.  And as it turns out, Oklahoma is as wild and wooly and colorful as anyone could hope to see.   Who knew?  I'm only a native.

5 comments:

Rick Blechta said...

I think you need to get out more! If Teaneck, NJ sounds exotic, you're in more trouble than you know!

Donis Casey said...

I don't know, Rick. I've been to every state in the union except Hawaii, to Mexico and Canada, and all over Europe, but I've never been to Teaneck, New Jersey. I gather that you would not recommend I make a special trip?

Vicki Delany said...

Do you know that Rick is from New Yawrk!

Debby (Deborah Turrell) Atkinson said...

Donis, You'll be in Hawaii for Left Coast Crime, won't you? It's going to be loads of fun, plus we'll have a special tour just for you.

Donis Casey said...

Oh, Debby, I won't be at Left Coast, nor at Bouchercon, either, this year. And I am very sad. But due to an unexpected event or two, I'm temporarily financially embarrassed. I'm saving up for '09 and the new book, though. I guess I'll just have to re-read your books to get my Hawaii fix.