Write what you know.
If you are a writer or not, you have heard this before. Maybe I'm lazy, maybe uncreative... but I AM honest. And I have never been a fan of reinventing the wheel when it comes to my writing.
I have a lot of admiration for the Lucases, Tolkiens, Roddenberrys, and Martins who are inventing worlds and languages and alien races as numerous as stars in the galaxy.
But I'm not there. I will probably never be there. So writers like me follow useful advice and get books written by simplifying the process and eliminating unnecessary challenges. And so long as 'what you know' isn't terribly obscure, it conveniently creates an instant rapport with your readers. What YOU know, someone else knows too, and that is the basis for art that resonates with its consumer.
I have chosen to anchor my novels in my hometown and the surrounding areas. When I read a book or see a movie or t.v. show that is based in my region, or anywhere in Missouri, I feel a nerdtastic thrill. I look for familiar streets, landmarks... you can see the Arch in National Lampoon's Vacation, a local actor friend was in Up in the Air, I once watched all of a TERRIBLE movie with Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario, just because they had a layover in St. Louis.
We all do it... When we recognize things, we think, 'I've been there,' 'I've seen that,' 'That's not at all how it really is!' I know I share this sentimentality with my neighbors.
So, yes, I know Missouri and I will write what I know. But I am also proud of Missouri, and I want to show people who haven't had the pleasure of growing up here the Missouri that I know. Sure we are a flyover state, and mind you, totally secure in that... But being Midwestern has not for a second deprived us of regional beauty or a colorful culture. (Admittedly, a bit too red in some places, but we are working on that.)
I grew up in Rock Hill. When I was a kid, there were five thousand some odd people in town. But no one really worked there, very few went to school there, and aside from the occasional dinner at a restaurant or two, no one really played there. The most Missouri of Missouri towns, Rock Hill is a flyover municipality in a flyover state... It takes 5 minutes and 3 stoplights to drive the length of the city. But, Rock Hill is home to 1.5 miles of one of the longest Highways in Missouri.
Manchester Road to the locals, Highway 100 to Google maps, and a chunk of Route 66 to sentimentalists, this artery was my lifeline. As I grew up and as the radius of my life experiences expanded, Highway 100 stayed the thread from which all my adventures diverged. In grade school, we only went as far as my parochial elementary school. In highschool I ventured out to Manchester, Mo to hang out with new friends. In college I discovered how close we were to rock clubs in the city. As a young mom, I took my kids out to Gray Summit to see the Easter Bunny at Purina Farms. I drove to Washington to adopt my little dumpster dog a couple of years ago... My point is, Highway 100 is at least as much a part of my life as my Grade School, or my first car... I know it. I will write about it.
I have yet to drive all 121 miles of Highway 100, but I am only waiting for the convergence of sunshine and an idle Saturday. I'll be driving east to west, starting just three blocks east of arguably St. Louis city's favorite diner, the Eat Rite, and in perfect literary juxtaposition, terminating my little discovery road trip at a rural McDonald's in Linn.
I will eat. I will document. I will photograph. I will write... what I know.