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Friday, October 21, 2011

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that in addition to finding Real World Templates (pictures of people) to use as inspiration for my characters, I also like to find images of my settings, especially people’s homes. There’s a lot that can be learned about someone from the type of home they choose to live in. In the Matchmakers series, I’ve had some historic homes (Zarah’s, Caylor & Sassy’s, and the Bradleys’) as well as a pretty snazzy, relatively new condo (Bobby’s). Because of who Flannery and Jamie are and the lifestyles they lead, historic homes weren’t even in the cards for them.

Flannery’s Condo
Though Flannery had a typical suburban upbringing in Nashville, the daughter of a surgeon and a football coach, five years ago, when she, Caylor, and Zarah moved out of the rental house they’d shared since college, Flannery bought a condo in the brand-new Encore! condominium building. As someone whose life’s ambition was to be an editor, she’d occasionally dreamed of living and working in New York—but though she’s enjoyed visiting NYC as often as possible, she realized a long time ago that she would hate living there. So downtown Nashville is the next best thing for her. Especially since the condo building was only a brisk seven-block walk from the offices of Lindsley House Publishing on Lindsley Avenue. But then, three years after she moved into the eighth-floor one-bedroom, the publishing house outgrew its downtown location and moved eleven miles south to the Maryland Farm business park in Brentwood. So she’s been considering selling. (Click the image to view a slideshow of Flannery’s condo in a new window/tab.)

(In the book, there’s also a chair-and-a-half and ottoman creating a bit more separation between the living room and the dining/kitchen area.)

Jamie’s Townhouse
For the first few years he worked at the Gregg Agency, which is located in “the second tallest building” in downtown Nashville (Google it—you’ll find it), Jamie still lived in the apartment he shared with Danny in Murfreesboro while in college. Then, once he’d saved up enough for a down payment, Jamie bought a townhouse in the only area of town he’d consider living in—because, at the time, it was “the” address for an up-and-coming young marketing executive to have: Old Hickory Boulevard right on the border of Nashville and Brentwood (on the Nashville side, though, which meant a lower price). As an extrovert, he loves living in a townhouse community, especially one that’s as vibrant and active as his is, mostly filled with other young up-and-comers. And the location of his condo puts him only a few minutes’ drive from Lindsley House’s new location in Maryland Farm! (Click the image to view a slideshow of Jamie’s townhouse in a new window/tab.)

(Obviously the decorating in this townhouse leaves a bit to be desired—y’all have seen what Jamie’s like here on the blog, so just picture the condo furnished to his tastes! Which should be a lot easier for those of you who’ve already had a chance to read advance galleys of it!)

Other Settings
There are some other, very recognizable, locations in Turnabout’s Fair Play—such as Starbucks and Panera. I always try to put plugs in for as many local restaurants and coffee shops as I can . . . but with the locations in which Flannery and Jamie live and work, the fact of the matter is that they’ve been mostly overtaken by national chains like these.

For those who have read both Love Remains and The Art of Romance, you’ve either learned through online research or guessed that the church which plays the biggest role in the books, Acklen Avenue Fellowship, doesn’t really exist. Yep, I made it up. But I did set it right across the street from my own church. I’ve described Acklen Ave. as having a red-brick exterior. I imagine it looking something like this:

Where the small part on the left is the original church structure, built in the 1920s, and continually added onto over the decades until the final expansion ten or twelve years ago (Dylan was in high school) when they gave everything a more modern facelift. The original small sanctuary still exists, but is now the “chapel,” while a new, modern worship center with all the technological bells and whistles hosts the several services on Sundays.

The very name of the church gives its location—Acklen Avenue runs through the Belmont/Hillsboro Village area of Nashville, which is one of my favorite places in town. It’s Midtown adjacent, with Vanderbilt University lying between it and the true Midtown area. For tourists, Hillsboro Village is most famous for The Pancake Pantry (and I must admit, having lived here almost sixteen years, I’ve never even attempted to eat there—I’m not really big on standing in line for four hours just for pancakes). This image is the street-view photo from Google maps of 21st Avenue South (looking north toward Vanderbilt/downtown), which is the main drag through Hillsboro Village—and yes, traffic is almost always that bad!

A new location I introduce in TFP, even though just for one scene, is the Scarritt Bennett Center—a conference and retreat center just off of 21st Avenue, not too far from the Village. With its Gothic architecture and grand old trees, it’s like taking a step back in time—and across the Pond to a quaint, ancient village in England.

One thing I’ve tried to do with each of the books in the Matchmakers series, since they are set in such an iconic city, is make sure that I’ve done my research—because if you’re anything like me, you get curious about the places mentioned by name in a novel set in a real place.

Do you ever look up the names of places from novels to see if they really exist in that city? How “real” do you think an author needs to be when using an iconic city like Nashville in fiction?

  1. Friday, October 21, 2011 7:23 am

    I’m sure I’ve looked up something, but I don’t remember what off the top of my head.

    That said, my own MSs take place in a fictional town set where my own town is. By making it fictional, I can give it a Panera or Chick-fil-A when it doesn’t really have one, but I also use a lot of real places, like the Aquatic Center [which is awesome] and real places in the “big city” located nearby [except for one notable exception – a restaurant where proposals tend to take place – and all my local friends are like “where is this place?!” and then are sad when I tell them it doesn’t exist because there’s nothing like it in our “city”.]

    I do love that you use real places – I think it’s great!


  2. Audry permalink
    Friday, October 21, 2011 9:53 am

    I definitely look places up, and I’m always disappointed when I find out they don’t really exist. I was so sad when I found out that Avonlea wasn’t a real place 🙂 I also think it’s very cool when real events show up in historical novels – particularly when they’re not overly important to the plot, or when they’re not events that are widely known. It’s cool to go look them up to see if they really happened and then learn a little more history.

    I think it’s cool that you have your characters living in real condos/ townhouses that actually exist, too.


  3. D Ritz permalink
    Friday, October 21, 2011 11:10 am

    I love the way you do all of this background work, Kaye! Yes, I often look up places in books I read. I do like it when an author sticks to “real” neighborhoods/areas of a city, though I am not sure I would say it was important to me for every detail to be kept real.


  4. Sylvia M. permalink
    Friday, October 21, 2011 11:22 am

    I love it when authors use real places in their books. It makes the book come alive. Two weekends ago my sisters and I went to Savannah, GA for the second time. The first time we breezed through it, but didn’t know a whole lot about it. Since then all three of us have read Denise Hildreth Jones’ wonderful Savannah series featuring Savannah Phillips as the main character. She has soooo many real places and streets in her books that we were able to go all over the city and pick out real shops, parks and cafés that were mentioned. She described the house that the family was supposed to live in so well that we were able to pick it out in it’s exact location. One feels that one can walk down the street and run into one of these characters or their friends.


  5. Friday, October 21, 2011 11:32 am

    I love your real places, Kaye, especially since they’re in Nashville, and I’ve always said that if this country girl had to live in a city, Nashville would be IT!

    Deanne Gist put so many real Charleston locations in “Beguiled,” that it quickly became my favorite book of hers. Got to read the “Savannah” books! As a teen, I read all of the Eugenia Price historicals that took place off the coast of Georgia, and have been fascinated by that part of the country ever since. Yes, I definitely like to read about real places in novels!


  6. Lady DragonKeeper permalink
    Friday, October 21, 2011 3:06 pm

    I kind of figured that ruffled, yellow and blue flowered valance wasn’t Jamie’s … 😛 but I like how you took the time to find all these photos –as a reader, details like that really adds to the experience (and it’s fun to see what an author was picturing in her head when see was writing the book). 🙂

    I usually read historical fiction, so while actual places/stores/etc. may be mentioned, oftentimes they don’t exist anymore. I haven’t really looked up any places in contemporary fiction that I’ve read, I guess it didn’t occur to me that they might be actual places (minus something like “Starbucks” or a chain like that is mentioned). I think it’s neat!


    • Friday, October 21, 2011 5:21 pm

      I guess I could have blamed his grandmother for the decor, but Cookie has better taste than that! 😉


  7. Rebekah W permalink
    Sunday, October 23, 2011 4:48 pm

    I found that some authors that I have read from actually have incorporated some actual landmarks in their works that they grew up around ( for example the church you had mentioned in your hometown.)I like that actually. How they describe the smells and locations in the books to make it believable, and it’s as if they are taking your hand and walking around there with you. Without you physically being there, but it makes you want to look it up and go. lol. I’m from Texas, and I miss some parts of it such as the hill country and such. One author that I read from bases her stories where I used to visit during the summers before I moved, and reading her books and how she describes the setting let’s me get a visual.

    I totally agree with you Kaye in doing your research on a place before writing about it. Especially if it is a real place on the map. It was down right confuse the reader if you mention an iconic landmark, and then falsely describe it when you have not even seen the place. Talk about false advertising!


  8. Janet Kerr permalink
    Tuesday, October 25, 2011 12:39 am

    I have never actually looked up the names of places from novels but I have enjoyed learning about new cities.
    If the author is really good at their description of settings I become immersed in the story. I think that research is key when using an iconic city like Nashville. When I read the story I want to be able to “see” and get to know this city because I really don’t know anything about it. It is those tiny details that bring out the personality. I would like this city to actually be a character because this would make it larger than life and therefore vibrant.


  9. Sarah permalink
    Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:39 am

    It’s always nice to get a vizual on where the characters live and everything. Now I don’t have to wonder as much about it. Sometimes I do look up the places that characters in the books I’m reading go. Usually the authors do a good job of being realistic in their settings which is nice.


  10. Wednesday, October 26, 2011 11:14 am

    I love researching places I read about. I think the book needs to have some real, acurate settings but also some that are totally fabricated:) Just for fun!


  11. Wednesday, October 26, 2011 11:14 am

    Sometimes if I’m reading a book about a city I’ve been to, I will check out the landmarks. I love reading books set in a city/country I’ve been to because I can more easily “see” it in my head, if that makes sense?


  12. Friday, October 28, 2011 7:58 am

    I love made up places and real places equally when they are well described. I think it’s fun to learn about real places and “see” them without traveling there (especially since I can’t afford to travel). But I also enjoy places that authors come up with in their heads (faves like Narnia and Hogwarts).


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