Book heroines often mirror what happens in real life and return to their childhood hometowns. Some have a sense of adventure that takes them across the country or to the other side of the world. Just like us, other main characters fight to escape bad memories by moving as far away as possible.
Gillian, the heroine in Dark Energy, Return to Becker Circle, opted to leave her small-town childhood home of Sugar Creek, Missouri behind. Gillian’s world crashed when her mom lost her battle with cancer. Then she watched her father slip into the bottle. Gillian could mix the best martini of any 12-year-old. Luckily the bar where he was a regular was only a block from their house, so he could stumble home safely. Gillian left her hometown as soon as she could with a scholarship to Harvard.
After graduation, Gillian headed to Dallas for a fresh start. The weather was warmer than Boston or Sugar Creek. It was a great place to find an accounting job. There were tons of young professionals. And Dallas was far away from her past.
I researched middle-America towns near metropolitan areas to create Gillian’s roots and found Sugar Creek. Visual mapping and websites helped me locate her schools, part-time job, newspaper where her father was the editor, home, and the bar in the next block.
Visiting Sugar Creek confirmed the town was right for Gillian. Sugar Creek has a Moose Lodge, town gazebo, and shady streets lined with pre-WWII homes. Best of all is the Kross Lounge & Restaurant, exactly the place I picture as the local bar where Gillian’s dad was a regular. It’s a place where everyone knows your name. I ate lunch at the bar and chatted with the bartender who had worked there for 19 years. When I told her why I was visiting, she agreed she would likely be the one who made sure Gillian’s dad made it home.
Blending fiction with real settings and situations helps create relatable characters. Most people who’ve worked hard to start over in a fresh place will understand why Gillian might have selected her new Dallas neighborhood home.
How did you find your place to call home?