Some places are real. Some are imaginary. Some are both!


Those who know me can recognize places from my personal history in One Red Thread. But what about the places I made up? Is there any similarity between what was in my mind as I was writing and what is in readers' minds as they navigate the world of my story?

Sometimes, as it turns out, there is. And when that happens, the results can be strange and wonderful.

Readers who know Austin, TX might recognize it as is the story’s basic landscape—a river in the middle of the city, downtown on one side and neighborhoods stretching beyond.

Those who know my hometown of Chapel Hill, NC, might recognize a few individual buildings and locales. In fact, I talked about some of them recently on the radio.

But then I visited my brother at his home in Whiteville, NC. “Did you ever see the Victorian house we bought?” he asked. No, I didn’t believe so. So we jumped in the car and rode over.

And there it stood: law offices now but on the outside the perfect image of my protagonist Eddy’s Victorian House in One Red Thread. Of course, it was what my brother imagined while he was reading. More surprisingly, it was what I imagined while writing:

She scanned the gables and dormers and chimneys that angled in all directions from the big Victorian house’s roof. “Wonderful,” she cried.

I’d never written, though, that the porch ran only across the front and down the right-hand side. It wasn't a wrap-around. But that’s what I’d been thinking. And that’s what was on my brother’s house.

That’s where Eddy, in his first time travel experience, saw his 16-year-old self repairing the gutter early in the story. That’s where he sat on the roof and pondered his property and his family near the end:

I reached through the open window, unhooked the screen, and stepped onto the porch roof. I walked to the edge, where I stood, a gargoyle staring.

Very strange, as I said in another interview. And a lot cosmic, as I wrote when I described Eddy’s relationship with his brother:

“Siblings,” the shrink once said, “can feel an almost mystical connection to each other."

Well, maybe it is just about my brother and me. But I do believe it’s more. That link from writer’s mind to fingertips, then to print and to any reader’s mind, it’s very strange and mystical—and when it works, very wonderful indeed.


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