There’s a saying in real estate, that it’s all about location. Maybe you’ve heard it. Location. Location. Location.
It’s just as true in writing historical novels. My current novel is set in Texas. That’s my location, too. The two worlds have collided, since my setting has everything to do with what I research and write about. Texas is the place where I decided to write a novel, then another, and to keep on writing.
I came late to Texas. In 2004, I left the D.C. suburbs, where I’d lived all my life among red brick colonials and beltway politics (having been drawn to neither), to live in Austin, Texas — a place I’d visited only once, on a long spring weekend. I’d felt an immediate kinship with Austin during that May trip. I was feeling stuck in the place my parents had chosen, and I’d been searching awhile, trying to find the place I’d pick for myself.
Everything in Austin felt so wide open, so inviting, so beckoning, so creative, full of so much possibility. By August of that year, I was an Austin resident.
Reading first-hand accounts of survival cemented my fascination with the generations of families who endured droughts and dust storms, and their immense pride in a place that constantly challenges and captivates.
I didn’t give much thought to the fact that I was moving to Texas at the time. I was enchanted by Austin, a little oasis in a huge state I had little interest in . . . until I got to know its natives, read its history, and traveled to its many unique regions. My explorations of west Texas and the panhandle led me to read first-hand accounts of survival there during regular doses of droughts and dust storms. Those accounts cemented my fascination with the generations of families who endured, and their immense (and occasionally overblown) pride in a place that constantly challenges and captivates.
I was drawn to those true stories like fire ants to ankles. I wanted to write novels set in Texas, about fictional Texas people, responding to true-life tough times — the kind that some real-life Texans seem to triumph over.
Now I live atop a canyon in the Hill Country suburbs of Austin. As I write my second novel, a red-tailed hawk drifts over the canyon, seemingly just past my grasp through the window.
I believe in signs — like the one from the soaring hawk — that remind me I am in a place that suits my purpose.
Sometimes I think there isn’t enough time to track down all of the true stories and fanciful lore in Texas that I find so inspiring. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t learn something that makes me think it’s a great setting for yet another story. I know it’s a marketing slogan, but I’m beginning to believe that Texas really is a state of mind.
I got here as quick as I could; as for the historical novel, quick isn’t the way it’s done. If you’ve been a reader of the Pairings blog and wondered where my voice has gone these past few years, let’s blame it on my novels. My voice has been lost in Texas awhile, as I’ve focused on writing my second book, Dust, a historical novel set in the Texas panhandle, central Texas, the Big Bend country, and in lots of rail stops in-between.
But now Pairings will be making an intermittent return, with tidbits of Texas lore and teasers of the Texas to come when Dust is finished.
My first novel, A Habit of Hiding (also set in Texas), is complete and awaits a publisher — but you don’t have to wait to read an excerpt: Download the first chapters here.
I hope you’ll subscribe to Popular Pairings to hear more about Texas history and trivia, and all the usual creative stuff I enjoy pairing (photography, art, design, tech). Thanks for your patience — your comments will be mighty welcomed. ♠
Love that map. Did you find it at the Texas General Land Office?
The map was titled Texas Pictoral Map, dated 1938, credited to R. T. Aitchison. Try the Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu, for great maps like this one.