I grew up in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., which is why I chose it for the setting of Leap First. It’s been quite a long time since I lived there, however, and the internet proved highly useful in reacquainting myself with various locations. Of course, not everything is discoverable online, so imagination handled the rest.
During a visit some years ago, a couple of family members generously took me on a tour of places I had written about. It was wonderful to refresh my memory; to see new-to-me elements firsthand rather than as internet images; and to note details that would help make my created world more realistic. I became emotional more than once… pesky attachment to my characters.
Reality naturally diverged from imagination at times. Fictionalizing real businesses and institutions with invented differences made sense, though I’m sure some places are still recognizable. (Nothing but respect for them all, by the way.)
There was one big surprise that still amazes me. I had been to the Damascus area ages ago but didn’t know it well. While making notes as we drove around one day, I happened to glance out the side window. I may have shouted to stop; I definitely asked to go back. We parked on the side of the road, and I stood there in awe. It was Gregory’s farm, very much as I described (if not exact in every detail). How incredible to find a place that so closely resembled something from my imagination, and if I hadn’t looked up at that precise moment, we would have passed right by. I could only wonder if the inside was as I imagined, too.
A year or two later (it was a loooong editing process), another synchronicity answered that question. On a whim one day, I looked up available real estate in Damascus. To my utter shock, there was a new listing with a familiar image. Yup, “Gregory’s farm” was for sale, and there were plenty of photos. The exterior ones maintained a resemblance to what I wrote, but the synchronicity ended there. The house was actually newer construction with a modern interior that, while lovely, was nothing like I imagined for Gregory’s place. Still, it was fun to get a peek, and whatever the differences, my experience of coming upon the farm that day remains a special moment.