No, this is not a blog about being disoriented. Rather, it describes the place I find myself on the eve of one of my books becoming public. I have this sudden onset of paranoia. Let me explain:
Like most writers, I was brought up on the maxim: "write what you know." I may not have been the best student, but it didn't take a lot of smarts to figure out that the people who were writing about things they didn't know came across as ignorant to everyone but their own clever selves. To avoid this, I always had my characters live in a house like mine, and sail in the old sloops that I knew. They also lived in towns that had industries and neighbors that felt like home. Besides, I enjoy the familiarity of place, and it helps me as an author to stay close to my characters. The problem comes when I decide to let the readers into my real place. I give some real world landmarks.
My latest book takes place in Cleveland (do I hear snickering?) It's the city I knew as a young man, and I wanted the color of that experience to be in my book. I could have made a fictional place by blending the metropolis with other places I have lived, Columbus, Dayton, Princeton, Oil City, but it would have changed (even hurt) the story. So I wrote my imaginary story in a real place. This is where the paranoia sets in.
Some reader is going to freak over the fact that my imaginary serial killer lives on the next block. So, I stick his apartment on a street that isn't on Mapquest or GPS. I blend the real "what I know" with the "only in my imagination," and hope that no one from the real place will tell me that I've damaged their product or ruined their sleep.
Do other writers feel this way? Caught between the desire to bring readers into a familiar place without violating the current residents. I know lawyers have opinions on this, but writers do as well.
Causes Robert Smith Supports
Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity, Presbyterian Disaster Relief