Being here in Virginia makes me wonder to what extent I am a Southern writer. I grew up in Maryland and Virginia, so technically I spent most of my life in the South. And coming back here always feels like a homecoming. It’s as though the air itself feels right. It has a particular softness that the air does not have in the Northeast. I have never felt quite at home in Boston, and although I write about Boston and New York, I do so as though they were foreign countries.
I’ve written a number of stories set in the South: “Sleeping with Bears,” “The Wings of Meister Wilhelm,” “Lily, with Clouds,” “Lessons with Miss Gray.” Two of those are set in the town of Ashton, North Carolina, which is loosely based on Asheville. And I have a whole series of mysteries in mind, the Darcy Chase mysteries if I ever get to write them, that will be based in Charlottesville (which is where I am now). On the other hand, since I’ve been here, I’ve been writing bits and pieces of a new story to be called “Elena’s Egg,” which is set in a UEEC (unidentified Eastern European country). And I have book series I want to set in London and Boston.
So where do I belong? Nowhere and everywhere, I suppose, both as a writer and as just me, the person who lived all over the place all her life, Budapest and Milan and Brussels and Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville and Boston and New York. But I’d like to come back down here – down South – again. If I belong anywhere, I think I belong somewhere around here, between these mountains and the sea. It’s a beautiful place with a troubled past, accepting of artistic eccentricity – a little like Hungary, actually. A good place to create the writing life that I want so very much. And I have more stories to write about the South – when I have time.
The writer in the South (or a possible Southern writer):