When working on The Grove, (or any story really) one of first the decisions I made was if I should set The Grove in a real town or a fake town. I have set books in real places. I set Out for Souls and Cookies and the opening scenes of Other Systems and The Light Side of the Moon in Seattle and Lure was set in the Klondike.
When researching this book, I traveled down the coast and visited many of the small towns. Yes, I could have set it in Cannon Beach, OR or Ocean Shores, WA and not changed much of the story, however I wanted to write my own history for this town. I already started when I visited MOHAI and began learning Chinuk WaWa (also called Chinook Jargon) I also know that meth abuse is a BIG problem for much of rural United States and many small town rely on tourist dollars. While I mention places in the novel which are real such as Seattle or Portland, the main setting of Sitka’s Quay is a fake town.
While the book was in editing, I created this tourist map, using all the locations I mention within the book.
Inspired by real places during three trips to the Oregon Coast, I took notes and decided to create data for the 2010 Census in order to create the setting. Once I have this data, it is easy to create something that feels so real, the reader thinks they could actually go there.
Faces the Pacific Ocean to the west and is hemmed in by two headlands, the city would have a total area of 1.54 square miles with all of it land. Highway 101 runs through town.
473 fulltime residents of the town in 207 households. The average household size would be 2.07 and the average family size was 2.70. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there would be 96 males. 23% of households have family members under 18. The median income for a household was $36,708.
Males had a median income of $24,203 versus $22,272 for females. 17.1% of households fall below the poverty line.
Racial Makeup: I decided early in the writing process that Sitka’s Quay would be much more diverse than the population of my inspiration towns due to an influx of an artist’s colony in the 1960’s and 70’s. Two generations after the free love era, there is much more people who claim two or more races including the protagonist, Dayla Fisher, because love knows no racial/nationality/religious bounds.
37.1% from two or more races
4.4% Asian American
2.2% African American
.4% Native American
1.4% Other/Chose not to answer
Religious Makeup Special Note #2: In the novel, the antagonist, Jonah Leifson, claims that “Sitka’s Quay has a 30% Wiccan Population.” That is technically incorrect, but since he’s an outsider, Dayla didn’t bother to correct him. (So I don’t want to hear any guff when the book comes out.) Careful readers will see a variety of people with a variety of faiths. In the hypothetical census, Arial Fisher (Dayla’s father) would have said Jewish, even though he doesn’t actually practice Judaism anymore. And Mia Blaise (Dayla’s mother) would have probably picked Pagan or Indigenous Faith, depending on her mind set when the question was posed. Both would be correct.
26.4% Non-denominational Christian
1.7% Indigenous Faiths
.5% Other Faiths
.6 Chose not to answer
There are 612 housing units at an average density of 408 homes per square mile. The summer population swells to 2000-3000 individuals who rent or own summer houses. (Of course, they would answer the census from their primary residence.)
Sitka’s Quay has a mild and wet climate due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean.
Annual precipitation averages about 90 inches. From October through April, daytime temperatures range from the mid 40s to the high 50s with abundant rain. Nighttime temps drop ten degrees. Snowfall is rare but winter floods are a common occurrence. May and June are mild with average temperatures in the upper 60s. July, August and September temperatures average in the mid 70’s – although daytime temperatures can occasionally soar into the 80s and 90s for days at a time.
Current Primary Language: English
Other Languages: There are small populations who speak Spanish, Chinuk Wawa, and/or Siletz Dee-ni. In fact, there is a Catholic Service in Spanish and Siletz Dee-ni every Sunday, because it’s a way that Father Ben can feel close to his people though he must live apart.
Besides English, I decided Dayla also knows Siletz Dee-ni , Chinuk WaWa, some French and Yiddish.
So that’s how I built a town. I’d love to hear from you.
Do you like books set in real or fake towns? What are some of you favorite “fake” towns?