Setting

The neutral ground on Harrison Avenue. Some pivotal moments in the story happen on this street.
The neutral ground on Harrison Avenue. Some pivotal moments in the story happen on this street.

They say, “Write what you know.” I’m not quite sure who they are, but that saying seems to be one of those maxims everyone’s heard of.

But what does that mean when it comes to fiction? Especially science fiction, fantasy, or paranormal fiction? Because I’ve never known anyone who’s manifested a supernatural ability. Or, if I do know someone with that type of ability, they’ve kept it hidden from me.

In a lot of ways, this is what I’m aiming for in The Incident Under the Overpass: what would it be like if someone I knew, or someone I could relate to, suddenly discovered they had supernatural powers? The whole magical realism thing.

It made the process of scribing this story more about writing what I might know. So grounding the story in the very real setting of New Orleans just seemed to make sense. It’s where I was born, it’s where I’ve lived for the past thirteen years, and it’s what I know. Since only my imagination knows the characters and the plot, there’s the setting to provide a certain “real” palette.

Some places in the book are real, physical, locations with their real, proper, names. Redd’s Uptilly Tavern, for example. There are two scenes set in this bar, and it’s a place Husband Tim and I know well.

Other places are stand-ins for real life locations. And others are a mixture of both. Like Lacey’s home—the exterior is a house in my neighborhood that I pass often while running. But I don’t know the occupants, and I’ve never been inside, so the interior is purely imagined.

Speaking of running, the overpass that inspired the title (and the opening chapter) continues to intrigue me. Every time I run underneath it, I contemplate those picnic tables that sit unoccupied and in shadow for most of their existence. Coming to life during those rare Brigadoon weekends when someone hosts a family reunion or a barbecue or a crawfish boil.

Crawfish boils. Something unique to this region, like the term “neutral ground.” Everyone from around these parts knows what a neutral ground is. But what about all those far-away readers that I’m hoping to reach? That’s why I’m really glad my Fabulous Editor Shelley is not from New Orleans. I used the term neutral ground in the manuscript, and got a very earnest note back stating that she didn’t know what it meant, and Google searches were unhelpful, and was it a sidewalk?

So I was challenged to come up with an artful way to explain within the story that a neutral ground is the same thing as a street median, the strip dividing the roadway. The etymology has something to do with divisions between the French and Spanish settlers of the city a long time ago, I think, but I didn’t go into that. Suffice it to say that the term takes on utmost importance during Mardi Gras, to know which side of the street to look for your parade-float-riding friends.

And, as an aside to far-away readers who may be interested in this novel and won’t be able to attend the August 27 Book Launch Party (at Redd’s, of course), it is available for pre-order on Amazon . . . 🙂

One parting thought: as I still struggle with bouts of anxiety over this whole book launch, a comforting thought has occurred to me. Maybe I’m taking this whole thing too seriously. (‘Ya think?) In a sense, this is a very serious deal to me—I’ve invested a lot into this story (time, money, sweat equity), and I’ve got a true yearning to write full-time. But in the end, I’ve produced something meant as entertainment, a diversion from reality. Maybe, keeping that end in mind, I should just lighten up a bit.

5 thoughts on “Setting

  1. Hi Anne! Emilie proudly told me about your book. I head up two book clubs here in Austin & still attend one in Houston, so I’d love to pick your book for one of our meetings this fall. Wishing you all the very best! Enjoy all of your hard work! ❤️

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