Wonder Boi Writes

Countdown to Timeless: What’s in a setting? (Part 1)

Hi readers, don’t faint because I’m posting my second blog of the week!  The first one was sort off script, but you all seemed to like it. Unless you missed it, in which case go here.  This blog though is back on my promised theme of preparing you all for my April release timeless.

Today I wanted to talk you about the setting of the book, or rather the settings plural.  You see most of the book takes place in a small midwestern town that’s very familiar to me, and hopefully to some of you too.  It offered a return to places and faces I’ve written before which brought a unique set of challenges and rewards.  I’m going to talk about all of those in Part 2 of my discussion on settings, but before I can do that I need to tell you a little bit about where Timeless begins and ends.

New York City.  Yes, Ms. Stevie Geller, successful novelist and budding playwright lives in the haven of artists known as The Village.  She’s a contributor to a theater of youth program off Broadway. She mentions only being a few blocks from the legendary Stonewall Inn.  It’s not a huge part of the book, but it sets the tone for who Stevie is as a person and how far her life has diverged from her hometown.

The only problem is, when I wrote Timeless I’d never been to New York City.  Yes you read that right, I’ve lived in New York State for almost 8 years, but I’d never been to The Big Apple.  This is the first time I’ve ever written about a place I’d never at least visited.  I’ve written about Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, Barcelona, Madrid, Madison, so many places that I had strong personal connections to, cities I associated with various moods, experiences, aspects of my life that helped me ground the characters.  So why pick an unfamiliar setting when I had so many other cities to choose from?  Because it’s New York City! Center of the universe. Or at the very least center of the theater and publishing worlds.  It’s huge, and busy, and sophisticated and diverse.  New Yorkers are tough, resilient, and self reliant, or so we stereotype. The biggest reason I chose New York though is that the city seems like the antithesis of a small midwestern town and even people who have never been to either place generally share in that cultural understanding.

That being said, stereotypes and cultural understanding may go a long way in helping to build characters or setting a tone they do not help me get the details right.  Since I’d never been to NYC I had to spend a lot of time on google maps virtually strolling through the streets Stevie would walk.  Surfing realty listings and mortgage calculators for studio lofts, then trying to figure out which ones Stevie could reasonably afford on her income (something else I have to know about the character even through it’ll never appear in a book).  Mapping out which landmarks were within walking distance. How long it would take her to get to the airport.  Where was the nearest Starbucks?  Thank goodness for the internet because I’m not sure how writers would have done this kind of research thirty years ago, and I only had to worry about it for two chapters of the book.  I don’t know if I’d ever chose to base an entire novel in a place I’ve never even seen.

Thankfully though, New York is no longer completely foreign territory to me.  It might have been too little and too late to help with Timeless, but my wife and I recently celebrated our tenth anniversary with a quick trip to The City That Never Sleeps.  We didn’t get to see much in the 30 hours we were there, but I did manage to hit a few of the spots Stevie and eventually Jody would have visited. And you can be search I had my writers eyes on in the hopes of being able to use this amazing city and everything it has to offer in the way of setting for future books.

Here’s me and Susie in Times Square. Writers notes: Huge, frantic, cooperate, exciting, overwhelming, crowded, disorienting, energetic.  Different kinds of characters are going to react to this place in vastly different ways.



Next we headed down Broadway and through the theater district.  With Stevie being a playwright and Jody a theater teacher I knew those experiences would have been helpful info to have while writing, but honestly I’ve just never been a big fan of theater. I mostly only went to see a play because it was on Susie’s bucket list.  I expected it to be one of those things I had to force a smile through in order to please her.  Well color me corrected!  Broadway is a whole new ballgame.  There’s tons of fuel here for future creative fires.


That night we took the subway (another experiences full of notes for all five senses) to The Village.  We walked by bars and sex toy shops, cute little brick apartments with picturesque stoops next to stores selling accessories for drag queens.  So urban and yet so residential with so much creative energy to pull from.

Then we hit the gay holy grail: We had drinks at The Stonewall.  This part probably needs to be it’s own blog, because there so much to cover, like getting to hang out with Nell Stark, and do shots, and eat m&ms in our popcorn, but let’s just say the sense of history in this place is humbling.  I actually think I got that reference right in Timeless, but you’ll have to read it to find out.



Okay, so there you have it, the ups and downs of writing about a place before you actually get to visit there.  It’s a challenge I’m not sure I’d take on for just any place, but for New York, and all that the city offers a writer I found it worth the risk.  Furthermore, it added a bit of extra fun to an already cool anniversary trip.  And lest you think I spend my entire vacation in serious writer mode, here’s proof I also stopped by the disney store to see if they had anything in my size.


Now, you’ll just have to come back next week to see how I managed to transition the setting and my characters to central Illinois!


January 30, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. […] the Olympics) I posted a blog about part of the setting for the novel. You can check that out here. While that first part of the setting was unfamiliar to me, the second part was not. I’m hoping […]

    Pingback by Countdown to Timeless: What’s in a Setting? (Part 2) « Wonder Boi Writes | March 5, 2014 | Reply

  2. […] now, and I really, really hope you will.  You see, I’ve told you about and the settings in NYC and Darlington.  I told you about the cover: Front and back. I even told you about my new author […]

    Pingback by Countdown to Timeless: Time to order! « Wonder Boi Writes | March 12, 2014 | Reply

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