Jeanette Palmer, the central character in Where the Light Falls, is from Circleville, Ohio. One of my readers was surprised to hear that Circleville is a real place. It is and, as far as I can tell, lives up to its perfect name as the quintessential Midwestern small town. A paragraph in a 1909 diary I'm reading describes a late-June storm in Circleville so dark that fireflies came out at 5:00 p.m. The diarist and the people she is visiting play bridge, escort another visitor to the streetcar, "and then took in the picture show but declined to go with the crowd to see Hargus Creek out of bounds."
Picturing a World
During the pandemic, a good project for me has been sorting through family papers. The Real Jeanette, like her fictional counterpart, spent the first years of her married in Cincinnati; but after a few years, the family moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Woodward family lived around the corner; and lo and behold, when I Googled, up popped this picture of Mrs. Woodward and her children. I love being able to see the daughter's dress, the shutters closed against the heat, that trumpet vine on the porch, and most of all, of course, a glimpse of the neighborhood. Does it inspire me to send my fictional Jeanette and Edward to Chattanooga? Naaah. Could a story grow out of finding an old photo? Maybe!
Via Old Tennessee.
I saw this painting by the Norwegian painter Asta Nørregaard at an exhibition while I was researching Where the Light Falls. At the time, I was unable to find an image on line, but memory of it influenced how I imagined Jeanette’s first studio of her own. Its spareness and gray walls, in contrast to the lusher studios so often depicted during this period, seemed specially appropriate to Jeanette’s pocketbook and her mood at that point in the novel. At the time I was writing, I thought that it was Cousin Effie’s love of Whistler’s decorative schemes at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878 that made her to want to paint the walls yellow; I suspect now that the colors in this painting also subtly influenced my imagination of how the two characters would react to a studio space. Read More
When I first saw Manet’s painting early in my writing of Where the Light Falls, I did a joyous double-take. Here was Read More