Living in the Pages.


“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul.”
~Wyland

When I first started the planning stage for SANDS OF TIME (Have I mentioned its title on here yet? That was actually the first piece of the puzzle this time!), I knew there needed to be four different settings, two of which were seaside. Because Charlotte’s story takes place in 1957, a time period I had to research extensively, I decided that I should keep it close to home. Of course the area was different in the 50s than it is today, but several of the hallmarks still remain the same, and it seemed like a good choice to bring that sense of familiarity into a storyline which featured so many other unknowns. Atlantic City became home for Charlotte and Nolan, and the writing process became even more exciting for me. I loved getting to build chapters around the Jersey shore. It has been somewhere very special to me for as long as I can remember, and weaving its charm into the book only increased that.

And so, when I spent seven lovely days in New Jersey this past week, I soaked up the significance even more than usual.

There’s Fralinger’s, where Charlotte works (granted, this is the Ocean City store instead of AC, but close enough):

Fralinger's

There’s the Ocean City Music Pier, where Nolan takes her for a surprise birthday celebration:

OCMP

OCMP2

Most special of all, there’s Ventnor. It is, truly, my favorite place in all the world. I spent time there every summer until I was fourteen and some of my most lovely memories have been woven there. It’s been over fifteen years now since my grandparents sold their condo, but we still try to go back for an evening or two each summer. Walking on that boardwalk again, seeing the fishing pier, breathing in the salty sea air that I swear is unique in that town, different from every other coastal community … it is home for me. It’s also directly next to Atlantic City, so when Charlotte and Nolan moved, it was the perfect spot for them to go. The entire last chapter of my book is set in Ventnor, and so being back there again last week was even more meaningful. This might sound ridiculous, but in a way, it felt like I was living in the pages of my manuscript.

Ventnor1

Ventnor2

Ventnor3

AC

My favorite restaurant, and the place where Charlotte, Nolan, Remi, and Eli have dinner:

Ventnor4

Why yes, I am totally that person who writes her book’s acronym in the sand in the exact spot where a scene takes place:

SOT

I couldn’t stop picturing my characters: Charlotte and Nolan strolling the boardwalk, Remi and Eli taking in the sights of the Jersey shore for the first time, Charlotte and Remi sitting on the beach as they write a message of their own, write a story of their own. It took a place I already adore and made it even more magical. Something similar happens to Remi in the book – she moves to Nantucket after reading about it as a child and falling in love with its beauty – and it was such fun to write her experience of watching the words spin to life around her. That’s what this was like for me.

A few more non-book related pictures:

DSC03499

OC1

Supermoon over the ocean = Super awesome.

OC5

OC6

OC7

What’s your all-time favorite place? And fellow writers, have you ever set a book in that spot?

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12 thoughts on “Living in the Pages.

  1. Shari, these are BEAUTIFUL. What great inspiration for your story, and how cool is that to practically walk around in your characters’ world? You’ve inspired me to do the same for my work. Too bad most of them take place in fantasy worlds. :D

    • Thank you! I always go a little ( … a lot … ) snap-happy when we’re at the beach, but I definitely took even more pictures this time. Writing about it just made me see things in a whole new light. The Jersey shore has always been my world, but to watch it transform into my characters’ world, too? And to view it through their perspectives? SO. COOL. I hope you get to have a similar opportunity with one of your non-fantasy books!

  2. Hmm I’m not sure I have a favorite place, but it would be awesome to base a story somewhere I knew. I write fantasy though, so I won’t get to visit any of my book locations :(

    • But you get to visit them in your head, which is equally as awesome! I so admire writers like you who can craft entire worlds from the imagination. It takes such talent and dedication to bring an unknown entity to life like that! :)

  3. I definitely have favorite places — Madrid, Taipei, a certain duck pond in Houston — and because setting, I’ve learned, is an essential ingredient in my work, yes, I’ve written about those places, and I will continue to write about them in the future, I’m sure. Along with other new favorite places, like the Galapagos islands. (I’ve got a Galapagos ms all outlined and waiting for me, in fact!)

    I think it’s wonderful that you (both YOU in particular, and a general you) can work your love of certain things, people, or places in your stories — and in doing so, spread and share that love so that other people can fall into it too. :)

    • My dad studied abroad in Spain when he was in college and still raves about Madrid to this day. It sounds like such a beautiful, fascinating place. And the Galapagos islands! What a wonderful setting that’ll be for a book – unique, lovely, and overflowing with your own special memories. I look forward to reading it one day!

      Also: could not agree more. How lucky are we to be able to weave in what’s so important to us and share it with others? That’s one of my favorite parts about writing — and reading!

  4. That is so cool and surreal to live in those moments of your book! It sounds like you had a wonderful week at the shore and I am super jealous! I haven’t been to Ventor or Ocean City since I was kid. Now I want to go back :)

    • Surreal is the perfect word to describe it. No matter how much time I’ve spent at the shore over the years, getting to experience it through my characters’ eyes brought a whole new dynamic. Aww, and I hope you guys get to have a beach trip this summer, or even just a beach day! You certainly deserve it!

  5. One of my short stories, Walking to the Shop, is set at my dad’s old house and the streets around it. Other than that, I haven’t set a story in a place I love an am familiar with yet (generic Australia is the closest I’ve gotten), but I’ve got a short story set in Hiroshima, and I would absolutely love to go there.

    That must have been a really magical experience to go where you had your characters go and stand where their stories occurred. Awesome pictures… that moon!! Wow! That whole area looks absolutely beautiful. Did you holiday there because your characters had been there, or had you been planning to go back there anyway?

    • Oh, how awesome, to set a short story in a place you know so very well. Has your dad read it? He must have been so pleased! :)

      Oh my gosh, the moon was beautiful. I’m so glad the Supermoon phase fell out while we were seaside – it was so pretty, shining down on the ocean. Pictures don’t even do it justice. We vacation at the shore every summer (a week in June and one in August) so it had been planned ahead of time, but it definitely took on an added dynamic after writing about it!

  6. what beautiful pictures! I haven’t even read anything from this project of yours and yet I can picture them there as well! I’ve never been to the shore or really anywhere on the east coast besides PA and Vermont. So this was a great little escape for me!

    My favorite place ever is Ft. Walton Beach, FL.

    • I always love reading your posts/seeing your pictures of Ft. Walton Beach. It sounds like such a lovely place!

      And … thank you so much! :)

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