30 Days of Writing–Day 13: Culture

Fading Light In Clouds Over the Sangre de Chri...

Lucky 13th post.  We’ll see.

13. What’s your favorite culture to write, fictional or not?

Thus far my novels and stories have been set in modern day urban America.  The cities I’ve chosen have all been places I’ve lived (other than my first, set in L.A.)–Dallas, Portland, Albuquerque.  My upcoming novel will be set primarily in London.  I’ve not yet decided where the opening scene happens, other than it’s in the United States in a city easy to blend in unnoticed.

Though all of the places where my completed novels have been set have been in the United States, I live in a huge country, and the cultures vary significantly from city to city.

But if I had to choose a favorite, it would probably be Dori’s setting of New Mexico (Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Los Alamos).

I lived in Albuquerque for seven years, met and married my husband there, and travelled to almost every corner of that state.  I still eat green chiles on a regular basis, make posole about once a year, and have a couple of Kachina dolls and Indian-made pottery on display.  Tucked away in my dresser, is a gorgeous green turquoise squash blossom, for which I paid a king’s ransom to a Santa Fe vendor.

I loved living in New Mexico, absolutely loved it–loved the scenery, the people, the food, the weather, the culture.  How could I not set at least one novel in a place that occupies such a large space in my heart?  Plus, there’s something wickedly ironic about putting sun-averse vampires in a place that is sun-drenched over 90% of the year.  Not so ironic are the vamp-friendly sunsets, the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  The photo in this post is sunset over the Sangre de Christo mountains near Santa Fe and Los Alamos where Dori spends a bit of time.  Given that Dori is both a creature of the fire and flames and of the night, New Mexico fit perfectly.  It also didn’t hurt that one of her love interests dabbles (ha!) in nuclear weaponry and New Mexico was the birthplace of the atomic bomb.  Plus, I liked the humor of a line-dancing vampire in a cowboy hat, not because he liked it, but because he had to fit in.

I’ll be leaving the U.S. for my upcoming novel and venturing to the beautiful country of England.

To understand why I’m relocating my setting to an entirely different culture, you should know that I lived in London for a summer right out of college and  before I was scheduled to start my career at Arthur Andersen (RIP) in Dallas.  My traveling companion changed her mind about finding employment in London to sustain her for the summer.  She returned home when her money ran out a couple of weeks later.  I found a job and stayed for over three months…by myself, no friends, no family, no internet or cell phones back then, only slow-moving letters, doing a low-paying job with no future…but I stayed.  I’m glad I did. Talk about a lifelong impression.  I’ve had Neely (the American heroine) and her story in my head since then…nearly 30 years ago!

Writing about a foreign culture so many years after living there will be challenging.  I plan to tap a few U.K. writer friends to give me reality checks from time to time (though they don’t know it yet), hit the internet for the rest.  But I’m putting Neely there mostly during the same period of time that I lived there–the tail end of the Falkland Islands war, Prince William’s pending arrival and birth, and the constant threat and reality of IRA terrorist bombings.

A spoiled American, I had no idea what it was like to live with the constant threat of terrorism…then.  I got a tiny taste of it nearly two decades before 9/11 and it chilled me to the bone, still haunts me.  Hopefully I capture that element of the culture and its long-lasting ramifications on the equally spoiled (initially) American heroine.  There’s a bit of a NaNo spoiler for ya, at the risk of wearing out the word “spoil”.

Thus far, I’ve been a student of “write what you know”.  Novel #5 will be a baby step out of that comfortable cultural womb.  But I’m committed to taking that step, if only to get this damn story down on paper once and for all.

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