On one of my writing forums I recently saw the question asked “Have you ever visited any of the towns/locations that you write about.”
Most were divided on this. Many authors make up imaginary towns (can you say “Forks”) where there story takes place. I prefer to keep my stories grounded in the real world, to really give a feel for the setting.
I decided to have my series take place in Washington, DC. When I started writing my first novel, I’d never been to DC, but it was on my bucket list of places to visit. I have always been fascinated by the history of our Nations Capitol and I also wanted a city that had close public transportation. (My heroine is blind but I wanted to make sure she was fierce and independent).
I spent a LOT of time doing research. I embedded myself in Google maps. I read about local bars, restaurants. I looked up homes, apartment buildings. I even went so far as to research liquor store hours on a Sunday make sure that the store would be open at the time my hero went to grab a bottle of whiskey.
Ok, so maybe I take it a BIT too far at times.
Anyhow, my point is that I want it to be as real as possible. I don’t want someone who lives in the city I’m writing about to think I didn’t at least try and do my research.
Finally at long last I was able to go to DC. I went solo, and trolled all over the city by myself and I had a blast. I had lunch with a homeless man at a hot dog cart. I got escorted out of the Smithsonian by security due to the length of my shank. (What can I say, I’m a rebel with a pocketknife, don’t mess with me). I navigated the public transportation system solo, met and chatted with strangers, who pretty much loved my delightfulness. I got lost on the subway and wound up with a dead cell phone in the less privileged areas of DC. I wasn’t too worried though, because I was too busy giggling with two old black ladies who were just the best, and saw the cutest little six year old selling chocolate bars to buy a bike, so I of course pitched in a few bucks.
I took my heroine’s metro to Arlington, had coffee at the Starbucks in her neighborhood, and stood outside the complex that I’d consider her apartment.
I went to a bar in Georgetown that I wrote about in my first novel and listened to live music.
I went to Arlington cemetery and saw the changing of the guards. It was sobering yet beautiful. I went off the beaten path and saw Washington National Cathedral. I walked the mall. Twice. In one day (along with the tidal basin). Then I walked through Chinatown and back down past the White House. I googled it and it was something like thirteen miles. My feet hated me.
Many people were shocked that I traveled solo. I’m a bit shocked that everyone was so shocked.
(I’m pretty sure that’s me channeling my inner “Tori”).
I loved that city, with all that is in me. I can’t wait to go back.