California Dreamin’: Researching the 5th Biggest Economy in the World

by | Jul 25, 2022 | Articles | 0 comments

Today’s post is more than a mere reference to an old Mamas and Papas song. It’s also a little bit about my experience.

Let me explain.

I’m a New Englander. Born and raised, as they say, in Connecticut, which I’ve often referred to as “just a suburb of New York City.” (You can hear me do it on a recent guest appearance on The Funky Writer podcast here.) So you might wonder why I’m writing, or even talking, about California.

It’s weird: if you write about werewolves, or vampires, or aliens, or zombies, no one says you need to have experience with them. But if you write about real(ish) characters in real(ish) life, some people presume you must have lived it, or at the very least, know all about that milieu.

 

Cali Dreams

This strange presumption fails to acknowledge a simple but often overlooked fact: writers do research! We really do. And, ya know, sometimes we even get it right.

I’m currently writing about California, Hollywood and L.A. in particular. Now, I’ve never been a Hollywood star, and my experience with the City of Angels has been pretty much limited to LAX. But so what? I’ve been to other areas, and I have an internet connection, and my ungovernable imagination can do the rest.

As I work on my California WIP (Work-In-Progress), I sometimes reflect on my own history with the Golden State. My family and I first visited there when I was a boy, Calistoga, in fact. Unfortunately, I was quite young, and my primary recollection is almost getting airsick from a helicopter ride over San Francisco Bay. Not much to write home about.

 

Cali Reality

Growing up on the east coast, though, teens often talked of “splitting for California.” As I grew older, I realized how few did it. The country is so big, most seemed daunted by the prospect, though many of those who dreamt of warmer climes ended up here in Florida, where I’ve lived since 1994. Big difference, although FL and CA have more in common than either would care to admit.

I have been to San Diego as an adult, and of course traveled through LAX several times, as mentioned earlier. I’ve got friends in San Rafael and Saratoga, and though I keep saying I’ll visit, I never get the chance.

Writing about California occurs outside my WIP here and there, too. I’ve done articles relevant to residents of Los Angeles, San Fran, and even Riverside. And the new novel, Hot Scenes, will offer plenty of chances to dig into Hollywood and environsfrom American Jewish University’s Familian Campus to the best fictional sushi place on Roscomare Rd. in L.A.

Whatever ends up making it through the final draft, one thing’s for sure: before the narrative begins, however realistic it might seem, I’ll include the novelist’s most common caveat:

This is a work of fiction…

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