On Writing and Place

This morning I walked along the Atlantic coast. The sun had not long risen, and yellow light sliced through gray and pink clouds. I thought of how artists have always been drawn to the sea, and the waters that are always mesmerizing, always changing, always the same.

picture of ocean in early morning, with waves and sunlight

I have seen many oceans. The Atlantic was the first, but also the North Sea along the English coast, the Mediterranean that circles the Greek islands of Naxos and Santorini, the aquamarine-blue Caribbean. Then the Pacific along Nicaragua, and then later off the coast of California, and finally the reaches of the Pacific along the northwest coast, along the old whaling towns off Bainbridge Island.

I could not know, as a child catching her first look at the sea, that I would one day write a book where the waves and storms and mists become as much of the fabric of the story as any character. All of those seaside walks, the early morning digging oysters in Wellfleet, the squall on the Mediterranean that had me ferrying ginger ale and aspirin to seasick passengers – those all invisibly built something in my mind that years later, came spilling out onto pages.

We all have a place that we know so well, it has become part of us, consciously or not.

We’ve all read stories, too, where place becomes a presence that seems to influence or even drive the behavior of the characters – for good or ill. Novels like:

Of course there are more! Which novels moved you with the way place shaped the story in a way that you can’t forget?

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