Ever since I was a kid, I adored reading fiction. It was an escape from my ordinary life, parachuting me into times, places and situations I’d never encounter on my own–the wizardly world of Harry Potter, the English countryside of Miss Marple, the Civil War of Scarlett O’Hara. I feel a dream-like collaboration with an author, when their words meld with my imagination, captivating me with an adventure created by both of us.
Something similar happens when I tour old mansions in the US, palaces in England and Russia, and ruins in Italy and Greece. I’m transported into worlds filled with people whose lives were different from mine. But since there’s no author to tell me about the emotions, motivations and desires of the long gone women and men, I stand in a quiet corner and try to conjure the essence of the feelings left behind–and they’re there. We all leave a bit of ourselves in the places we’ve lived. Proof? A home that has sheltered generations “feels” different than a brand new house.
Authors have written the imaginary Tara, Manderly, Hogwarts, Bridehead, and Bates Motel as characters–participants in the lives of the novels’ humans. My grandmother’s Los Angeles home, built in 1899, has been a character in my life and an inspiration for my novels. I’ve researched other potential homes-as-characters, come across some unusual ones, and incorporated them into my own stories. They’ll be among the topics of future blogs.