As you may or may not know, there's an author that lives very close to me. And her name's Holly Schindler. Feel free to be jealous. I expect you to.
For the release of her next book Playing Hurt, she asked me to be a part of a local leg of her blog tour. I can't even begin to explain how exciting this is. Yay me! Yay Holly! And especially, yay you! She wrote a guest post for us, among a few other exciting things that I'll mention towards the end of the post. Without further ado...
MY MISSOURI ROOTS
My roots in Missouri run deep—six generations deep. My great-great-great grandparents were some of the first settlers in Southwest Missouri. A family cemetery exists not far from Springfield, where many of my Civil-War-era relatives are buried.
While my parents both grew up in the Kansas City area, I am myself a lifelong Springfieldian. Born and raised on Cashew Chicken and Tent Theater. Attended SMSU for undergrad and grad school. (It will ALWAYS be SMS to me, no matter how many years away we are from the official name change). Bottom line? I’m Springfield through-and-through.
It wasn’t really by design that I’ve lived here forever. But as far as my writing is concerned, I’m glad I have…
In some respects, a book needs to be universal. In order for readers to fall in love with your main character, they need to “get” your main character. She (or he) needs to be somebody that your readers feel like they could walk out of their front door and run into. You don’t really want to craft a character who would only make sense in one geographical location…
But—you do want your work to have a sense of place, a local color. Place, in short, is more than just a two-dimensional backdrop.
Take THE BLUE BISTRO, by Elin Hilderbrand. Okay, so that’s not YA, but it is a romance, like PLAYING HURT. That book has such a vibrant, breathing sense of place that I’d argue the location (Nantucket, and more specifically, the bistro located in Nantucket) is actually one of the main characters. When the bistro closed toward the end of the novel, I found myself mourning more than I did when the restaurant’s owner, Fee, died. I can’t imagine that book taking place in another area of the country—just wouldn’t have worked.
I’ve lived here so long, I find Missouri (or, by extension, the Ozarks) becoming a part of my work without a conscious effort on my part. And I don’t mean I can toss in a few names of intersecting streets to give it “authenticity.” Local color isn’t something that can be achieved with proper nouns.
If you’ve lived in a certain area long enough, local color becomes part of your characters. In PLAYING HURT, when Chelsea and her family leave Missouri and head to Minnesota for vacation, I think they take Missouri with them: I see it in Brandon’s refusal to let his sister be dishonest about her relationship with Clint. I see it in Chelsea’s refusal to let the object of her desire slide by. In my debut, A BLUE SO DARK, I see the Ozarks in Aura’s straightforward, blunt style of narration. The Ozarks I know is full of (emotionally and physically) strong people. And I love building novels around that kind of character…
(Hi, it's Maggie here again.) Holly, as if she couldn't get more amazing, has also decided to run a contest for this local tour: whoever racks up the most comments and links to tour posts (through tweets or status updates on different sites) (the tour is all this week, check Holly's blog for where to look!) will win a signed copy of Playing Hurt! You can enter and post all your entries in this nifty form.
About the book:
Star basketball player Chelsea “Nitro” Keyes had the promise of a full ride to college—and everyone’s admiration in her hometown. But everything changed senior year, when she took a horrible fall during a game. Now a metal plate holds her together and she feels like a stranger in her own family.
As a graduation present, Chelsea’s dad springs for a three-week summer “boot camp” program at a northern Minnesota lake resort. There, she’s immediately drawn to her trainer, Clint, a nineteen-year-old ex-hockey player who’s haunted by his own traumatic past. As they grow close, Chelsea is torn between her feelings for Clint and her loyalty to her devoted boyfriend back home. Will an unexpected romance just end up causing Chelsea and Clint more pain—or finally heal their heartbreak?
I can personally say that Holly's writing is beyond wonderful, so I'd be sure to keep up with the contest! And even if not, be sure to buy Playing Hurt March 8th.
While you're waiting for the other posts this week, check out this virtual tour of the landmarks that show up in both of Holly's books. They're all areas that I'm familiar with as well, so I'm sort of introducing you to home. :)