How Did That Bridge Get There?

As a writer I have the choice of using a real place in my stories or making up a fictional one. But what is a writer to do when the real place they are using undergoes BIG renovations?

constructionWhen I started Love in the Time of Zombies in 2011 in my real hometown of Brentwood, California we were in the middle of the Recession and our town was like a frozen slice of time with roads to nowhere and bridges and overcrossings half-done. There were several subdivisions with lights and plumbing but no houses or half-completed houses with no utilities. It seemed the perfect place to put my zombie apocalypse.

Unfortunately, the book took 4 years to complete and publish. So I was left with a choice; leave it as is and have local people know our town didn’t look like that anymore with the recent booms in building and tax funds to finish the roads or change it as the town changed. Both were decisions that would mean making changes or not making changes and having people know that I hadn’t made the choices. What to do?

I loved the idea of a town in the middle of changing and forever stuck. So I went with writing it as if it was always 2011 in our town and putting an Author’s Note in the book. I think it was the right choice, but the reader has the final say, as usual!!

Do you like to find real places and locations in the books you read? What if they don’t match up exactly?

Jill James, writer of romance
Book 2, The Zombie Hunter’s Wife is now available to preorder!


About Jill James

Jill is a self-published author with The Lake Willowbee Series and numerous other books in paranormal romance and zompoc romance. She enjoys reading just as much as writing. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter @jill_james
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14 Responses to How Did That Bridge Get There?

  1. susanrhughes says:

    Not living anywhere near you, of course I didn’t notice inaccuracies when I read the book. I just enjoyed the zombified city that came from your wonderful imagination!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jo Grafford says:

    I pre-ordered the Zombie Hunter’s Wife a few weeks ago and can’t wait to read it! I fell in love with zombie lore a few years back when my oldest son asked me to watch the Resident Evil movies with him. As an avid romance reader, I stifled a groan but ultimately decided to indulge in some mother-son bonding time. OMG! Long before the end of the fourth movie, I was hooked on zombies and the whole bio-terrorism theme. Haven’t yet taken the time to watch the Walking Dead, but I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve watched World War Z. Mmm mmm mmm over Brad Pitt tackling those faster zombies.

    JMO, you totally made the right choice to place your apocalypse in a “town in the middle of changing and forever stuck.” Love the other details you provided: “…a frozen slice of time with roads to nowhere and bridges and overcrossings half-done…several subdivisions with lights and plumbing but no houses or half-completed houses with no utilities.” Sheer magic with words. Gorgeous world building there!

    I, too, love writing about real towns but sometimes I change the names in case I don’t get all the deets just right. Many authors have been wildly successful in doing so — like Stephenie Meyer with Forks, WA.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. E. Ayers says:

    I have local friends who about Norfolk or Virginia Beach. Then they include some fancy restaurant, maybe even details about the meals. I just shake my head. I’ve lived in this area for so long that I’ve seen places come and go. I keep warning them to make up a name. Menus change, ownership changes, names change, if you are going to use a real place, beware of things that will change. It can date what you are writing darn fast.

    I’d much rather make up a place and set my stories there. It just keeps me out of trouble. LOL Although another local author used a fictional town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. She ran into two women during a book signing who told her that they spent two days searching the Eastern Shore looking for that town.

    And Rita Mae Brown uses a real town in Virginia for her series yet perfectly describes several buildings in a neighboring town because the town she uses has new modern buildings (such as her “famous” post office) So she just borrowed what she needed to keep that picturesque, little town old-fashioned, and as quaint as always, while allowing the real town and residents to enjoy modern conveniences. 🙂 She’s not kept what she’s done a secret!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. okwriter says:

    Interesting post. I hadn’t thought about the affect of change during a recession and then after. Interesting perspective. I sometimes use real places like in my Holly Devine novels and I also make up towns, like Duster Montana in my Hawkins’ series, but even then I did use actual cities (like Boise) to landmark the general area of my small town.
    Beverley Bateman

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Joan Reeves says:

    Definitely the right choice because that setting is “real” to you so the story will be better for that reason than it would if you stayed true to reality. After all, making it up is one of the perks of the job.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol says:

    I like making up towns and using bits and pieces from others places that strike me as interesting! If I set a story in a real town, I also move a home, business or whatever to a different area in that town. That keeps me out of trouble. As E. mentioned Rita Mae Brown does in her writing, I love doing the same. I prefer making up settings.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. leighmorgan1 says:

    Jill, I love reading about real places from authors who have some tie or special knowledge about the place. It’s great when I get to visit too. I don’t worry about whether my view of the place mirrors the author’s. Most of the time it doesn’t. I love Edinburgh and have spent several weeks there. My experience of Edinburgh doesn’t look like the city in any of Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. Still, I love both cities! You go Woman—congrats on the newest Zombie Hunter!

    Liked by 1 person

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