Write What You Know, Y’all
“Write what you know.” If there were ever a piece of overblown advice or a piece of advice regularly taken too literally, this would be the one. Most writers haven’t gone to wizarding school, been secret assassins, or been in abusive relationships with billionaires. Most readers don’t want to slog through pages of laundry, helping kids with homework, and a detailed conversation about whether or not the blinds need to be replaced after the dog chewed them. What most writers also know are people and places. They tend to be observers, listeners, who file away bits of conversation, regional phrasing, and bits of local color.
In some of my favorite books, the places become characters in their own right. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago come to mind, but small towns and even fictional counties (Absaroka, Wyoming, anyone?) can lend authenticity, give voice to regions and the real people in them.
The places I know best are Carteret County, North Carolina and Broward County, Florida. The former is my hometown that never really felt like home. Maybe because of that, I spent too much time watching the people around me trying to figure them out. I may not have got figured it out enough to fit in, but hopefully it helped me create a cast of characters who seem real even though they aren’t.
Davis doesn’t really have a hometown, not one she remembers much about anyway. Her dysfunctional, nomadic family, roamed the country for years between her toddlerhood in California and a few years of high school in North Carolina. In All the Bridges Burning, Davis Groves spends a lot of time back in the place she got her GED and the first place she first made friends besides her older sister. It’s a place that represents a great deal of her attempting to “grow up normal’ and also a source of pain she doesn’t want to revisit and definitely doesn’t want to talk about. Until she has to.