I’m currently working on a three-book series revolving around a California ranching family. Our son, who lives in New York City, decided to stay with us for twelve days, and because he’s a globetrotter I knew he’d prefer to not hop on another airplane once he arrived at the house. So I simply looked down the highway toward a local California guest ranch. What better way to keep focused on my characters, build a deeper appreciation of the setting I had in my mind, and have a fun time with my husband and son.
We’re fortunate to have this guest ranch only forty miles from our home. And cell phones don’t work there. How cool is that! They do offer Wi-Fi in the main lodge for those who bring their laptops, as our son did. His work required him to spend a few hours online.
I booked a trail ride for one afternoon. Would you believe our wrangler was a Dane and a musician? My son is a sound engineer who loves Copenhagen, so they hit it off immediately. Life is full of surprises. And opportunities. Has anyone read a story about a Danish wrangler? Now that’s an unusual angle.
I shot photographs of the lodge buildings. This particular spot has a long history going back to 1939 when it switched from a camp to a guest ranch. The same family lives here, now going on the third generation. Your typical American mobility doesn’t apply to these people.
Chair and rocker outside our door.
Wooden carved western-style chandelier and below worn cowboy boots.
And a well-stocked bar.
My current WIP is set in a guest ranch in this general vicinity so I was in hog heaven, asking questions galore of the eighty-one-year-old family patriarch. We were the ONLY mid-week guests so we had the owner’s undivided attention during our meals with him. And I didn’t disturb any guests while shooting my camera. My husband bested me on the billiard table, which was a surprise. As a teenager I spent hours playing pool at home.
We three enjoyed each other’s company, lazed away the hours together in and out of the spa, ending our visit with thoughts of returning for a longer visit. I had plenty of photographic material to enrich the details of my current story’s setting AND fond family memories.
I’m curious how other writers decide on story location. What has been your biggest challenge to recreate a setting in a story?