Monday, August 27, 2012

Stalking St. Louis

It all started on a dark and stormy night...

Needle rips across record.

Okay, it all started on a balmy morning. And that is true. Finally, after polishing other manuscripts I'd written, I was going to research for a brand new plot simmering, well boiling over, in my mind. 

I grew up about an hour away from St. Louis, but I'd never looked at it through the lens of a writer...or an adult. I'd done some homework online and thought I knew where I wanted to go. Since my heroine's an interior decorator, I thought it'd be fun to give the job of remodeling old warehouses into urban lofts. Doesn't that sound fun? Yes it does.
St. Louis Loft district!

My sister and I decided to enlist our husbands. One, neither of us drive well in big cities and two, her husband, Rob, knows St. Louis like the back of his hand. I thank him so much since it helped put a lid on my husband's irritation had we drove aimlessly for hours!

I wanted to visit Lafayette Square and the park! So that's where we went first. To say it was hot is an understatement, but my big sis brought her professional camera and I was so high on excitement, I didn't care...the guys may have.
Lafayette Park was even more beautiful than the photos I researched online! Definitely a place for romance!
My  husband calls the fleur de lis, "Fleur de la fleur" to get
under my skin. It works.
They use this building for weddings! And there's my
family traipsing into the park. My sister's husband Rob said, "
The things we do for Jess." My husband replied with,
"You don't know the half of it."
So true! hee hee
I love the walks lined with lush foliage. 
Who doesn't love ducks? (when they're on the other
side of the fence that is) Oh wait, that's a swan! ha!
And sense this new ms is romantic suspense, I hit pay dirt at this park, ya hear me! Pay dirt! 

This is like a little cubby hole under the bridge. One on each side. Tell me that's not the A) perfect place to put a squatter, or B) stash a body. After the park, we drove around the neighborhoods. I was looking for homes for my heroine and my hero--he inherited a historical home from his grandma.

The chatter in the van cracked me up. My husband would pull over to the shoulder and I'd click away. "You got what you want?" 

"Yep. We're good."

Several natives honked and flipped us the bird. At one point my hubby stuck his head out and yelled, "Hey, we're researching a book!" Pretty sure the driver cared not.

I was so engrossed with my characters and their lives and where they lived, I think I slipped over the edge a minute. 

"Hey, that house looks grandmaly-like," my brother in law said.

"That one would work!" my sister said. 

I clicked and clicked and then....

I saw it!


A vacant home. A little run down. In definite need of some interior (and exterior) decorating! 

"Stop the van!"

Bathed in light, I heard the angels sing soprano, "Aaaaaaaaaaah!"

Rob said, "Grandma-like for sure. Definite work to be done. Ooooh, foundation issues, look." He and my sister flip houses. He would know.

My heart slipped right out my rib cage. "Oh," I whined. "I don't wanna deal with foundational issues! I can't have a house with foundation problems!"

My husband slid his sunglasses down on his nose. "Really? Jess, the house in your book doesn't have to have it! It's fiction."

"Oh yeah." Everyone laughed and I admit, I pouted. "No. I'm not having a house with those issues that you can clearly see. Drive on."

I settled on a different house. We laughed and horsed around, then turned the corner as I hung out the window clicking away, only to see the owner of the house on his deck, shirtless, frowning at us. But I got that last shot and remembered my manners. "Thank you! I love your house!"

"Your going to get us arrested...again!" my sister growled. 
"It's been fifteen years, we're due."

I don't think she was convinced! (My big sis!) Then we went into a classier  neighborhood for my heroine's parents and a murder victim. 
Isn't this house gorgeous! Sigh!




I needed a good place for my heroine, so here's a few of my choices. I have a billion more!

We had a blast and ate at the Cheese Cake Factory. You know they have a "skinny" menu. At. the. Cheesecake. Factory. Yeah...I know. No one felt like being skinny. Not in the whole place!

If you're a writer, have you ever done research out of town for a story? Readers, do you like to see real places in the stories you read? 

*Wednesday Jaime Wright will be sharing a devotion, so come back for that and on Friday, Lynette Eason is in the house chatting about her books and suspense!

32 comments:

  1. Your trip looked like a blast! It's also great that your family is so active in supporting you. :)

    For my last book, I took my oldest son to a little-known remote island off the coast of MA. We had a lot of fun, and now he can picture the setting for one of Mommy's books.

    Thanks for sharing, Jessica!

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    1. They are supportive, but my sister also saw it as an opportunity to shop. She's selfish like that. LOL ;)

      Your setting sounds fabulous!

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  2. Oh my! I love this field trip story. I attended a festival and went a little nutty taking pictures of cows. My second novel was called Beautiful Bovine.
    ~ Wendy

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  3. LOL! I love your descriptions of the trip, and every writer out there is going to sympathize with the foundation problems. :)

    I've researched Duluth, MN, Idaho Springs, CO, Ft. Larned, KS, and several more places. I love a good field trip. :D

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    1. Ha, thanks, Erica! Thank you for sympathizing. My family thought it was ridiculous. But you know!

      I too love a good field trip!

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  4. Fun!! You know, I've set my stories in places I've been, so I haven't done much intentional road tripping research. But, I'm pretty sure I need to set my next book someplace like London or Venice or Paris...because why not give myself an excuse to go to Europe?

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    1. Hey, I'll set my next one in those places and we can research together! Safety in numbers, right?

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  5. Totally sounds like a fun trip. I may have to set my next book in modern times, and not too far away, so I can do one like this!

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    1. Yes, you should! In fact, you should set it in the Memphis area and come visit me!

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  6. Oooh, loving the house pictures! I did some research when I went with my sisters to San Francisco once. It was great to really be able to get a feel for the place before writing it.

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    1. I'd love to go there! My sister has been but it's not the same as going yourself, you know? :)

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  7. Your new heroine is an interior decorator? I want to be her! If it were up to me, I'd watch non-stop HGTV home improvement shows. Your vivid descriptions are awesome! I've done research on Israel and the surrounding regions/culture when writing Bible studies so that I can get a clear picture of what life would have been like in the first century when Jesus walked here. Amazing stuff!

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    1. Yes, she is! You'll love her! I'd be over the moon to go to Israel! Sigh!

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  8. Every time my husband and I drive through St. Louis, I want to stop in the historical district. It's gorgeous. Looks like you had the best time!

    I've been to San Antonio to do research for a character's hometown. Actually, it was to celebrate my wedding anniversary, but hey, two birds to one stone, right? :-)

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    1. It is gorgeous and we had a blast! I killed two birds myself. We had to go to my mom's to pick up my son who'd spent a week, so an hour away...hey~!

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  9. Since visiting the setting for my book was out, I used a real estate website and got all the pictures and details I needed. It worked perfectly. Then the realtor called asking if he could answer any questions for my house hunting. :) Oy.

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    1. That's hilarious, Nichole! Did you chat and get some extra feed back...or buy a house? lol ;)

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  10. Had you been with me, I would have gotten you inside the house. My kids hate when I do that, but I love old houses.

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  11. Now I find this vital info out! I'm going to call you next time I'm home. Message me your cell. I'm serious!

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  12. Looks like so much fun! I haven't done out of town research, but my current wip is set in San Diego...so I think a research trip should be in order. Hehe.

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    1. Ooooh yes! And pack me in your suitcase when you go!

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  13. I have done research in a town, and saw all the places my characters would walk...how fun!

    St Louis is an awesome city. Fun post, Jess.

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  14. Fun! I can't wait to read the book.

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  15. Fun! I'm getting ready to go to Chicago to research some similar stuff (my hero gets a house from his grandma too, but my heroine does estate sale stuff--and no dead bodies for me;) )...I have a good friend who's been feeding me Chicago info b/c she lives there. I'm gonna go check out some of the spots this fall and get the nitty-gritty.

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    1. I messaged you about Chi town, Susan! You'll love it!

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  16. I love doing this kind of thing and my hubby is my favorite side-kick because he loves to drive for me! What fun!

    One question: Where do you keep the bodies that you haven't found a place to stash yet?

    Fun post, as usual!

    Blessings,
    Becky

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  17. I have done research, but not in-person visits. Mostly book stuff. Though after I went to ST Louis, it helped me beta read a friend's book who had a huge scene in the arch, and I had to correct him on a bunch of stuff!

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  18. I've been trying to justify a trip to Boston for site research. I was born there but it's been way too long to do something from memory. This post has got me fired up on the idea.

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  19. Haha, I love all the fun little stories! I did a research trip with a few other authors in May, and it was a blast!

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