Today on Literary Treats, author Nicole Wolverton writes a guest post about Houston, Texas, the setting of her novel The Trajectory of Dreams.
In what town is your favorite book set? One of my favorites—A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving—is set in Gravesend, New Hampshire. Gravesend is, of course, fictional, as are many novel settings. There are reasons to fabricate a town. You can create the perfect backdrop. And if your novel becomes insanely popular, the town you choose won’t be overrun by tourists (which can be good for the economy but irritating for residents). In some cases, though, picking a real place is necessary.
I chose Houston, Texas as the setting for my novel, THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS. Because the main character, Lela White, stalks astronauts, it made sense. Astronauts train at the Johnson Space Center (in Houston), and the area is ground zero for space program-related happenings. Now, I live just outside Philadelphia city limits, and I rarely have reason to travel to southern states. As luck would have it, I’ve been to Houston a bunch of times to visit friends who live there. Friends, I might add, who schlepped my butt all over Houston to show me the sights. You’ve probably heard the advice “Write what you know,” right? Thanks to my Houston friends I was able to write from a position of familiarity.
It was also kind of a thrill (yes, I’m easily amused) to use my old vacation photos to choose locations for various scenes. For instance, at some point in the book Zory Korchagin, the Russian cosmonaut on loan to NASA, takes Lela to the Art Car Museum. The museum is one of the most fantastic things in Houston, so if you find yourself in town, do see it. The museum features various cars from Houston’s annual Art Car Parade, and the cars are gorgeous. It’s a little bit surreal, too, which made it the perfect setting since Lela’s entire world is precariously built.
There are other novels set in Houston other than The Trajectory of Dreams, of course. There’s an older essay from Texas A&M in which the writer notes that speculative fiction set in the area tends to focus on paranormal entities, a disaster of some sort, or “invasions of the state, not only by creatures from outer space, but also by foreigners, including the Russians, the Mexicans, and even the Israelis.” While Trajectory could not be considered true speculative fiction, Lela White is certainly someone who invades! Do writers who use Houston or other parts of Texas as a setting have an obsession with invasions? Well . . . I don’t know that I have the answer to that, but it’s worth thinking about!
Have you read a novel set in Houston?
Publishers Weekly calls THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS (Bitingduck Press, ISBN 9781938463440) a “skillful mainstream examination of a psychotic woman’s final descent into insanity.” The novel exposes the chaotic inner life of Lela White, a sleep lab technician and mentally ill insomniac who believes she has been tasked with protecting the safety of the revitalized U.S. space shuttle program. She breaks into the homes of astronauts to watch them sleep, and she is prepared to kill to keep those with sleep problems from the shuttle launch. Her delicate grasp on reality becomes more tenuous when annoying co-worker Trina Shook insists on moving into her house and visiting Russian cosmonaut Zory Korchagin inserts himself into Lela’s life. Korchagin’s increasing interest puts her carefully-constructed world at risk of an explosion as surely as he does his own upcoming launch. Lela’s tragic childhood unfolds throughout the novel, revealing the beginnings of her illness and long-buried secrets, and as Lela’s universe unravels, no one is safe. Buy a copy of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS at your local independent bookshop, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or anywhere books are sold.
THE AUTHOR: Nicole Wolverton fears many things, chief amongst them that something lurks in the dark. From ghosts to stalkers, her adult and young adult fiction plays on the mundane and not-so-mundane things that frighten us all. THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS is her debut novel. She is a freelance writer and editor and lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband, dog, and two cats.
Win a signed copy of The Trajectory of Dreams and two cookie cutters! Enter here. Contest runs until March 12, 2013.
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