Now that I have decided to forgo a formal outline for Blind Sighted, I’m diving into writing and thinking about settings. Should I use a fictional New England town, or an actual, real-life village? I was faced with the same question when I wrote my other novels. In Uncharted, I went with fictional, just so I could contrive the quintessential coastal-Maine community. With Portrait of a Protégé, sequel to Portrait of a Girl Running, I chose a true-to-life setting—the Sunapee Lake Region in New Hampshire, even naming some establishments in the community—but with Girl Running, I had a dilemma. I wrote with the geography of a particular town in mind—the village I grew up in—Amityville. So much easier than plotting out the ‘floor plan’ of an entirely new imaginary setting.
Since it has been a few years since the debacle, The Amityville Horror, was produced—thirty-four years to be exact—I don’t know … perhaps many people don’t remember the movie. I never saw it, and not just because I have an aversion to horror flicks. There are quite a few of us who still remember the horrible night that spawned the movie. I was an impressionable fourteen years old. I did not personally know the DeFeo family, but their tragedy rocked my safe, predictable, middle-class, ordinary life. Their tragedy was incomprehensible and it still reminds me of how precarious life can be.
Nevertheless, I have many fond memories of growing up in Amityville. It was a unique setting amongst the suburban towns that surrounded it, with its quaint village and mixed racial community. It was not only picturesque (and I believe it remains that way), but it felt safe. For me and my siblings, life happened in a three-mile radius. Aside from occasional trips upstate or to Florida, and out to Iowa to visit grandparents, Amityville, with its nearby beaches—Robert Moses State Park and Gilgo Beach—was all I knew for the first eighteen years of my life. It was only natural for me to write from memory when I constructed Girl Running. Even though at the time I had no plans for publication (that’s what new writers say when they set out to write their first real-live novel!), I was saddened to know that I could never use the actual name Amityville in a fictional setting. So sad, because it even sounds like the perfect fictional setting—Amityville! Doesn’t it conjure images of a happy, safe, amiable place? I mean, the word amity itself means friendly! Alas, I had to alter the name to Millville. Yeah, it’s pretty generic and it still works for fiction, but I would like to have held true to my hometown.