Sunday, September 28, 2014

The stuff I do in the name of fiction.

So I asked my friend, Autumn, last week if she wanted to come help me find a place to hide a body.

I mean, who could turn down an invitation like that?  But Autumn being Autumn, was all, “OF COURSE I’M IN.”  Also, she made it clear that she was going to enjoy telling her boss why she wanted Friday off. 

In some author interview or other I gave some time ago (wow, how’s that for vague?), I was asked what my favorite and least favorite aspects of writing were.  I answered, “Nothing.  I don’t have a favorite or least favorite part because I love the whole process.”  And if I didn’t say that at the time, it’s the answer I would give now.  But research is especially awesome—especially when it involves road trips. 

So Autumn, Patrick and I piled in the car bright and early Friday morning ("bright and early" in Lauren-parlance meaning anything before the noon hour), and hit a bunch of small towns in northwest Missouri.

Black Antler Farm, one of my current works-in-progress, is going to be set in a fictional town in Daviess County, MO, so we made sure to hit the county seat of Gallatin, as well as Smithville, Trimble and Maryville.  I was completely serious about wanting to find a plausible place to hide a body.  I mean, sure, there’s plenty of fields and forests in that area, but I thought it would be lame if I said a body was dumped, say, near the University of Maryville campus and have it turn out that that's not plausible at all.  Also, I wanted to get a feel for those towns we drove through, and stopped and took pictures in.  They ranged in population from 200 to 1,700.  I’ve spent quite a bit of time in similar-sized towns in Kansas, where my husband grew up, but small towns in northwest MO do have distinct differences.  It's amazing what a difference a hundred miles or so makes. 

Here are some of my favorite pics from the excursion:

A neat building on the square in Gallatin, MO.  There was actually a lot of impressive architecture in these small towns-- not just business and civic buildings either, but in stately old Victorian homes and farmhouses.  Less impressive?  Getting caught behind a combine on a two-lane highway.


 See what I mean about cool houses?


It really says "Shave & Haircut."  ("Two bits" sadly omitted.)  I didn't get a good shot of it, but a hand-drawn sign in the window said, "Hours: When I get here."


A cat lady with her herd o' felines.  I would've like a better shot, but I don't think she appreciated my snapping photos of her. 


 Like so many rural areas, the town is impoverished, with lots of abandoned, moldering properties.  I thought this porch swing and the moss-covered step was picturesque.


 Another beautiful building-- upon closer inspection, we found that it was actually an historic jail.  It was closed, with no visiting hours posted.


This not-at-all creepy figure in the jail window.  Don't get too close; it might eat your soul.


 I can't remember when the last time was I saw a payphone.  It works too-- a sign on the side said, "Local calls free."


For me, it was a very productive outing.  As I mentioned, I am more familiar with small KS towns, and there were definitely similarities: Casey's gas stations, trailer parks, struggling farms and businesses, and an abundance of churches.  But there was a great deal of dignity and beauty, as well.  Almost everyone who passed us waved hello, and we were delighted to discover that the Casey's where we made a pit stop had moonshine on their shelves.  We bought a jug and drank a toast to the day when we got home to KC.  

If you want to see more of the pics from the outing, check out my photostream on Flickr.  

In the meantime, I'm working hard to get the book finished.  I hope to have a complete draft in early 2015.