A major element in my literary writing has always been an awareness of place, and when it comes to my fiction, I’ve often considered the surrounding landscape to be a character of its own. Called it the local vibe, if you will, but the soil and locale can embody and influence the inhabitants who interact within it. Or so I heard in the ashram when our teacher returned from her first trip to India.
The awareness has stuck with me as I’ve moved across the country, from my native Midwest to both coasts and points in-between.
Another major element, to my surprise, is work and, in a larger sense, economics.
My Hippie Trails novels – Daffodil Sunrise, Hippie Drum, Hippie Love, and Subway Hitchhikers – follow a young photographer who works for newspapers through the turbulent era, and rural Indiana, small-town Northeast, and New York City all have their place in the arc.
As a rundown farm, Ashram is a center of yoga life surrounded by forest and deer.
The Northwest Passion series, meanwhile – Promise, Peel (as in apple), and St. Helens in the Mix – leaps from the Midwest to the interior desert of the Pacific Northwest. In the background we see Jaya’s struggles as a rising executive in nonprofit organizations. And then Kokopelli’s Hornpipe … plays …
With a Passing Freight Train of 119 Cars and Twin Cabooses, Along the Parallel Tracks of Yin and Yang, and Third Rail … are rife with the mix.
The balance tips, though, with Hometown News, which is set in the newsroom of the daily newspaper serving a small industrial city beset by the emerging conglomerate corporations headquartered elsewhere.
And then we have Big Inca versus a New Pony Express Rider, with its young apprentice managed by a mysterious Boss he never meets face-to-face as they transform a backwater town into a secretive factory involving international intrigue. Yes, there’s major locale, but the focus is on the day-to-day banter of what would otherwise be an office while bigger questions – including the very nature of the company paying the bills – remain nebulous, befitting its international distance.
A third central element has been spirituality and religion, especially the strands that veer away from the mainstream. Often my exploration has been for the awareness and nurture these can provide individuals and small circles of kindred spirits. But sometimes my perspective has been critical, especially when clannish identity, superstition, or custom override faith.
It should be no surprise that my next novel will also combine the three elements – it’s set in a family-run restaurant in a college town in the Midwest. But this time, family will be yet another central issue. Please stay tuned.