Landscape and geography play a role in my latest novel, Take Me Home. I always thought Hemingway said “write what you know“, but I just Googled it and Goodreads attributes it to Mark Twain. What Hemingway actually said was,
“From all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
A little wordier than Mark Twain but you get the gist. So yes, I write what I know but it’s fiction, it’s an invention derived from the things I know, the places I’ve been, overheard dialogue, or characters I’ve met. Like all writers I embellish things, I enhance the situation, I make shit up. I have traveled across the country, by car, five times. I have visited forty-five of the fifty states. My Dad taught U.S. history for thirty-two years. I love this country of ours.
The characters I create in my novels are full of wanderlust. They are on the move in this great land of ours. They believe if things aren’t going the way they planned, they can pick up and move. Something better is waiting just around the bend or across the border, two thousand miles from home. Take Me Home opens with this:
Josie Wolcott traveled the road of life without a map, positive that the simple act of starting the journey would get her to the place she needed to be, detours and roadblocks be damned. Fifty two years old , her nest empty and her marriage lost to her husband’s inability to keep his own wanderlust zipped inside his pants, she threw caution to the wind, setting off to reinvent herself once again. She refused to listen to the naysayers with their endless litany of, “You can’t do that.” Her reply, “Why not?” Never one to passively wait around for something new to come along, she set out to find the possibilities, owning her mistakes when things didn’t work out, which unfortunately happened once too often. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
Part Two of Take Me Home takes place in Idaho. It was in Idaho that the story came to me. I was hiking in the Targhee National Forest along the Mesa Falls Byway. I met a man from New Zealand.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a man waving to her. Wearing a tight red, white and blue leather jacket and black leather biker pants, he looked like Evil Knieval…..
He waved again, shouting, “You can use the men’s room. They’re both the same, you know.” He sounded Australian. She waved back. “Thanks.” Opening the door, she was hit with a musty but not totally unpleasant odor. Catching sight of the dirty urinal, she thought “not quite the same, you know.” Quickly taking care of business, she was out the door before the woman in the next stall emerged. The motorcyclist was gone. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
Later that afternoon we checked into a motel along a tributary of the Snake River, not far from Henry’s Fork. The man from the falls was staying in the room next to us. My husband and daughter were napping, I was writing in my journal on the deck. He was friendly, a little flirtatious. I never got his name. I never saw him again. But from this brief encounter the seed of a story started to grow.
She found a room at a motel right off the main drag but far enough back from the road that it was quiet, with a view of the river. Rocking chairs lined the long porch where she sat answering emails on her laptop. The door to the room next to hers squeaked open, the motorcyclist from the falls emerged. “Good evening,” he said. “Beautiful country, isn’t it?” ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
“Well, I’ll let you get back to whatever you’re doing. Time to shower up. Did you enjoy the falls?” he asked. “Yes, I did.” She turned the laptop towards him to show him a shot of the trailhead to the falls. It was taken from an old inn, the photo framed by the posts on the front porch. “Nice eye,” he said, abruptly turning to go back in his room. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
From this point on, my notebook was always by side. The story was no longer just percolating, it had begun. I knew the story I was going to tell. I didn’t have a beginning, a middle, or an end but I had an idea and I just started writing.
The landscape of Idaho is stunning. Breathtaking. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend you go. On one of our Florida adventures, my husband and I took a boat trip to an island inhabited by spiders. The woman driving the boat was so excited we were from New Hampshire. “That’s one of the two states I want to visit,” she said. “What’s the other one?” I asked. “Idaho.” Of course, I told her all about my book.
Holding tight to Tim’s waist, she quickly lost her fear of falling off. The bike coasted along a slow curve that changed their path to a more easterly direction, revealing the snow covered Tetons to their left. She let out a loud whoop of joy as they dipped around curves and up and down stomach dropping hills undulating for miles ahead. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
It truly is an inspiring place. A walking, hiking, and fishing paradise. (I bet you thought I wasn’t getting a walk in. The last few days when I’ve been out walking, I’ve been thinking of walks I took in Idaho.)
A dirt road took her past an abandoned motel, the doors wide open to a clear view of the rooms filled with air conditioners, old headboards, outdoor furniture and a tipped over toilet. The windows were broken. A squirrel sitting atop a roll of insulation eyed her suspiciously. She was only an hour’s drive from the fishing resort. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette
If you ever get the chance to visit, check out these places:
If you’re a fan of Ernest Hemingway, as I am, you know he spent a lot of time in Idaho. Years ago, on another trip across the country, my husband and I spent some time in Ketchum, near Sun Valley. I’ve been to Paris and Spain but not the running of the bulls in Pamplona. I’ve visited Hemingway’s home in Key West. Cuba is on my bucket list. Here’s what you can visit in Hemingway’s Idaho:
And as always, there is music. As Josie says to her son Luke:
We were in our own private Idaho. It was an adventure and it didn’t matter, it was temporary. ~ Take Me Home by Sheila Blanchette