I’m a product of the suburbs. In particular, the suburbs of the Midwest. The heartland, as I like to call it, or the fly-over middle as some coast-dwellers are inclined to say. True, Ohio isn’t the most breathtakingly gorgeous place to live. There are no mountains, no oceans and very few palm trees. There are cold, grey winters and hot humid summers. But, what the suburbs in the middle of the country do have is stability and warmth, tradition and caring. And those qualities are the ones I try to bring forward through my writing.
HERE, HOME, HOPE, my first novel, is set in the fictive suburb of Grandville, where everyone knows everyone else and keeping up with your neighbors can become an all-consuming pursuit. But what also happens in Grandville is that true friends stick up for each other and neighbors care about those living across the street. In this Upper Middle Class world, some do forget how lucky they are, how much they truly have and make it a point to jockey for position and try to social climb higher. Others realize they are blessed with a great home in a charming community, with wonderful schools, low crime – and the luxury of free time.
My next novel, ALL THE DIFFERENCE, is set in Grandville, and so is my short story A MOTHER’S DAY. I find that a known setting allows my characters to run free. Other writers tell me they must find settings far outside their own experiences to find that freedom. My characters tend to travel, whenever possible, to beaches and sunshine. But they always return home. To what they know, and love. Because if your heart is in the heartland, that makes it the perfect place to live.
Recently, my family moved to the West Coast. I know my new location will influence my setting selections – I’m just not sure how soon that will happen. I need to feel settled, in some intangible, creative mind-space way. Until then, I’ll cherish my Midwestern settings in my novels and the West Coast scenery in my real life.
Kaira Rouda is the author of HERE, HOME, HOPE and A Mother’s Day: A Short Story. Her next novel, ALL THE DIFFERENCE will be released in early 2012. Her bestselling nonfiction book is REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs. The mom of four, lives with her husband in Southern California.
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