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Thanks for reading along so far. This is the final installment of Hemovore Under the Hood, also known as "how to cheat on settings..."

I lived in various Chicago neighborhoods, from Pilsen to Humboldt Park to Lincoln Square, for fourteen years. Hemovore is specifically Chicago. Several of the settings that were prominent in the book couldn't have been anywhere else in the world.
  • The bridge over the Chicago river with the El running past, and Merchandise Mart overlooking it - particularly how slippery it gets in the winter, how "dead" the traffic becomes in the middle of the night, and the white lights they put in all the trees in the winter
  • Grant Park abutting Michigan Avenue - with the commuter railroad station below street level - we used to shoot photos down there in undergrad
  • The strip of 1950's motels between Chicago and Lincolnwood on Lincoln Avenue - I rode a bus past them for a job I held a few months and was always fascinated by them
  • The Currency Exchange - these seem indigenous to inner city Chicago, suburban Chicago and northern Indiana, especially in poor neighborhoods where people don't have bank accounts
  • The old access tunnels alongside the subway - the coolest setting ever!

The old access tunnels were especially dear to me. I learned they existed one year when a hole opened up in the tunnel wall—on my birthday—and the Chicago river flooded them. I was in grad school and I was supposed to give a lecture, and the city shut down all the trains, the downtown businesses and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and that was that. I was off the hook for a whole week!

I learned that Marshall Fields and Carson's and all the old department stores had sub-sub basements that were connected. Made you wonder what was in those subterranean rooms! Luckily there were websites that detailed the history of these bizarre tunnels, which were turn-of-the-century delivery systems, so I could research them. The bomb shelter Mark and Jonathan find is real! I would never have been bold enough to put one there so serendipitously if it wasn't real.

Better yet, when I researched the types of things that would be stored in a bomb shelter—especially an 80's-era abandoned bomb shelter—I was able to fill the tunnels with all sorts of weird, iodine-laced supplies.

Having all of these specific settings would seem to indicate that you can't write with confidence about any city unless you either live there or do a ton of research and then travel there to see the various points of interest with your own eyes.

However, when I considered other parts of the story, they certainly did fit into Chicago, but they were also ripe for improvisation.

- The Russian bakery - this was set in a neighborhood that I remember vividly, mostly Polish with some Spanish, some Russian and some Greek. But the bakery itself was pure invention, and you could set something like it in any city that you knew to have an ethnic population.

- The Chicago Metropolitan Correctional Center
- a real place, but I've never been inside. They have a website and a visitor's manual available for download, which was really helpful in Camp Hell when Vic went to see Roger Burke! In Hemovore, I have the prison totally "re-vamped" with plastic rooms and a special V-Positive ward, so it's pure invention.

- Jonathan's Studio - Whenever I pictured his studio in my head, it was on the corner of Adams and Wabash in an old 13-floor high rise where I used to work. Always. Not the specific apartment, and not even the underground garage, just the building itself. So it was grounded in a real place, but really, it could have been anywhere. Placing the studio where I did simply helped me to see it in my mind's eye. We can all imagine a lobby, a disused set of cement stairs, or a hallway in which we can hear our neighbors' TV sets playing.

Eventually even Chicago, with all its character and diversity, began to feel old for me after I set both Hemovore and the PsyCop series there. I didn't want it to seem like I was unable to write about any other place. And besides, I've been living in rural Wisconsin almost nine years now. Chicago's not even exactly the same as I remember it!

Lately I've tried to spread out my writing a little more and focus on specific details to give my stories a memorable sense of place. My thought is that if you get a building really right and you make sure the correct type of foliage and weather's outside, your readers will be willing to believe they're in whatever city you say they're in!

The key is getting detail, good detail, and really picturing the place in your mind's eye. Can you set something in the Louvre without having been there? Why not? Go to a local museum and see what details you might have taken for granted if you hadn't been looking specifically for them. On my latest trip to a local museum I saw little machines in the corners of the rooms measuring temperature and humidity, and I noticed the way all the guards lounged around the security monitors chatting with each other and not really watching the screens. The air smelled cool, dry and processed.

Take the details you've found locally, combine them with a few facts from the real place's website (so you're not putting in a basement where one doesn't exist, for instance, or you're not setting the building on the wrong side of town) and you've got yourself a location that feels real! Be sure not to over-explain. Just because you've seen the layout on a map doesn't mean you have to walk the reader through it step by step. Include the details that are relevant to your story and make them really good ones, and I doubt anyone will question the layout of the parking lot.

Of course, if you can finagle a "fact-finding" trip to the Louvre, that's even better....

Hemovore is available at My Bookstore and More and many other ebook sellers

Find Hemovore cutting room floor scenes at JordanCastilloPrice.com


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 16th, 2009 07:23 pm (UTC)
"Hemovore" has a gorgeous cover, BTW. :-)
Aug. 16th, 2009 08:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm crazy about the cover, too :D
Aug. 17th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)
I just love reading books that are around my home. I can relate to all the places and it takes picturing them in my mind so much easier. Thankfully, I live in the LA area and that happens a lot!

I love reading Hemovore, but I wish it were in book format! When is your next book coming out?
Aug. 17th, 2009 12:09 pm (UTC)
Hi! I think you mean paperback as opposed to ebook if I'm understanding your question. Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary is the newest, but I haven't started pimping it yet because Amazon doesn't have all the info up.

After that I think Zero Hour will be next, and then possibly PsyCop 6 and Hemovore in paperback next spring.

All subject to change depending on how writing, editing and book production go. Thanks for asking :D
Aug. 17th, 2009 11:19 pm (UTC)
Yes, yes, paperback books are what I meant to say...and am I going to have to go to amazon and pimp it for you? Cause, I'll do it!
Aug. 18th, 2009 08:22 am (UTC)
It just feels goofy to pimp a book with no cover showing. It's #20 in erotic horror this morning anyway, even without a cover. But it bugs me! I figure I'll give it a few more days and then start complaining.
Aug. 17th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)
You make me long to move back to Chicago - I spent my teen years and early college days there, but hated the cold winters and moved to Texas. But Chicago in the summertime is something I've always missed. I still visit family there every year, but I've often wondered what it would have been like to hold a job there, commuting everyday (I would have to take the Metra - I couldn't handle the traffic!), plus the wonderful culture of the place - and pizza! Boy do I miss Chicago style deep dish pizza.
Aug. 18th, 2009 08:26 am (UTC)
I was just hanging out with Chicagoans last night who happened to be in WI and we were all laughing about how nasty and churlish the people are. How it took me a whole year to stop acting like an asshole once I moved to a slower-paced city.

Pizzeria Uno even has a location in Madison. I can't say I recommend the winters here, unless you're into skiing.

I used to enjoy reading on the El to and from work. For some reason it didn't make me motion sick like being in a car does. I imagine these days I'd probably listen to podcasts.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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