There's no place like home...unless it's snowing.
For a brief but glorious week, I was able to enjoy spring-like weather in the beautiful state of Mississippi. We're talking sandals, short-sleeved shirts, even a skirt or two. Naturally, my arrival back in Missouri was heralded with an all too predictable wintery mix of sleet and snow. The trip was a good one. I did get some writing done (yay!), but mostly ended up spending ALL THE MONEY at pretty much every destination. I also snapped a handful of pictures of various locations that are occasionally used in my stories.
I know I've mentioned this before on this blog, but it's been a while and I have some new followers. Natchez, Mississippi is my home-away-from-home. An oasis where I can close myself off from regular life and get in contact with my inner writer. I do also get work done (on this trip, it was somewhat unavoidable), but when I go, I try to focus solely on things I enjoy doing. Writing, reading, and shopping. I was in Natchez last fall while working on Lost Wages of Sin, and I got more writing done there in three days than I do here in two weeks. It helps, of course, that Lost Wages of Sin is predominantly set in Natchez, and I was able to visit places like the Ruins of Windsor, which is referenced.
A lot of authors set their stories in places familiar to them. For me, setting stories in a town I know almost as well as my hometown creates an added layer of intimacy between me and the work itself. It makes the story more personal, because I love the where almost as much as the who, what, why, and how.
How much do I love visiting this place? Enough to name myself after it. This house? Fort Rosalie.
It made sense to base my penname off a place I love, because for whatever reason, visiting Natchez gets my muse going like nothing else.
This trip was a girl's trip, starring myself, my mother, and my sister-in-law. My
sister-in-law had only been once before, so we got to revisit some of my favorite tourist destinations.
Windsor, Arlington, Natchez Under The Hill, and the Natchez City Cemetery are all mentioned (if not directly, then under "clever" alternative names) in Lost Wages of Sin. I even took some pictures of places where Dante and Ava are extra friendly with each other, because hey, erotic romance author. Those pictures aren't posted, but I'll put one up if anyone's interested. Alleyway sex is better written than imagined.
These two shots, also by me with my handy-dandy camera phone, are of the most interest, as both represent homes that were once the definition of regal. Both have been ravaged by fire, and though the effect is demonstrably different, they each have a haunting beauty and sadness.
I've been asked a lot over the years if Natchez is somewhere I want to/could live...and the answer is "no." As much as I love visiting, and I truly do, there are certain things my Yankee brain can't reconcile (yes, I call myself a Yankee, even though I'm from Missouri) -- things that currently bother me in visiting that would be a never-ending trigger if I stayed there longer than a handful of days at a time. Yes, the homes I visit are staples of the Old South and represent atrocities that have horrified, mystified, or otherwise captured our contemporary imaginations. I have always been fascinated with this period of American history, ugly as it was, and Natchez itself is a relic to that period; in its heyday, more millionaires lived in this sleepy town than anywhere else in the country. It was where plantation owners built their townhomes and did the entertaining we associate with the antebellum South thanks to Gone With the Wind. And in this corner of Mississippi, sad to say, racism and segregation is still very alive. Each time I visit, I hear or witness things that I know many people in the South grew up believing, and still believe to this day. Some of the things I heard on this trip alone had me ranting to my traveling companions when we had privacy.
If there is a "why" behind my attachment to this town in particular, I'm not sure I know what it is. It might be genetic, as I have been visiting Natchez since I was twelve, mostly with my mother, who was also twelve at the time of her first visit. When I was especially young, I would flip through the books my mother still keeps on her coffee table and craft stories based on the grand homes pictured. Thus, on some level, I have always associated Natchez with my writing, even before I first visited. It was also a highlight of my childhood, bonding with my mother the way my father bonded with my brother over baseball. These things likely influence my bizarre connection with the town, and have helped keep the enchantment alive as I cultivated my modern liberal sensibilities.
At any rate, I had a great trip, but I am glad to be home...sleet and snow and all.