Friday, March 23, 2018

Not There Research . . . and a Question

I've been following the discussion about research and setting, and it reminded me once again of the dilemma I've created for myself. I use real places, but because of my slowly-developing series arcs and my reluctance to write in a "present" that can change in a moment, I can't physically be in the places I write about at the time of the story.

When I write about Gallagher, Virginia, my fictional stand-in for my hometown, Danville, Virginia, I can go home to Danville and walk through history. As in this photo of the courthouse. The statue is of Mayor Harry Wooding, who was a young officer in the Civil War and served as mayor for over 40 years.

But then there's the matter of  Danville/Gallagher in 2004. I have no memories of the city or the state during that era because I lived in Albany, New York. I made occasional visits home, but I don't have the same sensory memories that I have of the years when I lived in Virginia. When I write a Lizzie Stuart book, I need to rely on newspaper accounts of the city to provide the chronicle of changes and fill in the empty spaces based on what I know and remember.

The books set in Albany in the near-future are a different matter. I can see what exists now, and I need to walk into an imagined future. I imagined what Central Avenue would look like if the traffic pattern changed. I imagined a building downtown with a vertical garden and an attached restaurant.
Now, I'm imagining what urban explorers would find inside a deserted building. Sometimes, I'm ahead of the curve. I gave Albany a convention center because it was being discussed. Now, there is one. Not my convention center because my Albany exists in a fictional, parallel universe. But it's a little creepy -- if I conjure it, will it come?

I have another unrelated question. Tomorrow, the Mavens of Mayhem (our Sisters in Crime chapter) will host our first, "annual" Murderous March afternoon event at a public library (East Greenbush). I think we know why writers attend such events even if they aren't on panels. I've been thinking about readers. What brings readers in, even when the weather outside has a hint of spring, and there are other competing events?  Thoughts?

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