So I am in Chicago this week, away from what is now home (Seattle), but back in what, for many years, was home to me: the city of big shoulders, the Windy City. I lived here for more than sixteen years and this city, more than any other, is home to me—and more than that, it’s inspiration.
That’s what I’m thinking about this morning: how places inspire us, both in writing and in life. Chicago for me is an inspiration I simply cannot get away from. Its mean streets, its gorgeous
boulevards and skyline, its hard-working, but complicated people. For me, it’s always been easy to return to Chicago in my mind, which is maybe why I use it so often as a backdrop in my writing.
Chicago is a major character in so many of my works. It’s in my serial killer thriller, IM; it’s the place my troubled character in my haunted house story A Demon Inside flees, it’s where my beloved gay couple meet their fate when a hate crime changes their lives forever in Bashed; it’s where my young stripper dances in Tricks and my star-crossed escort lovers meet inRent; it’s where my chubby-chaser romance, Chaser, takes place. It’s even the backdrop for my upcoming sequel to Chaser, Raining Men.
The city is in my blood. It’s easy to disappear within its grid-like streets, which end at its eastern side at the ever-changing moods and colors of Lake Michigan. I don’t even have to think about where things are happening when I write—because I simply return there in my imagination.
Being here now, sitting here this morning in my friend’s apartment in the far-north neighborhood of Rogers Park, with the lake a couple of blocks over, I am wondering if there’s a special place that inspires other writers, or if there’s a special place that connects with readers on a deeper level.
What’s that place for you? As a writer, is there a place you can go effortlessly in your imagination? As a reader, do you appreciate real places when you read a story, or do you prefer a more fantastic universe in which the stories you read are set? I hope you’ll give me some insight in the comments below.
For me, though, Chicago will always be a kind of home. I am in Seattle now and have a great love for that gorgeous city, with its mountains and water (and my beloved family), but I wonder if I will ever loose myself from the bonds of Chicago, if it’s a place where, even if I never live here again, I will continue to return to in my imagination.
Seattle is slowly creeping into my work.Raining Men is set in both Chicago and Seattle and I am getting almost as comfortable writing stories set there as here, but Chicago has an almost magical hold.
I haven’t been here for five years, yet this week, walking Chicago streets and visiting old haunts, it’s almost as if I’ve never left.