Let’s get this out of the way: You’re Californian and now live in Oregon. Sarah is Minnesotan and lives there. How’d that happen? I imagine this is the most frequent question you get about Sarah.
The short answer is, I spent three years in Minneapolis, going to grad school in journalism. Then I got a newsroom job in California, and I hadn’t been back all that long when the character of Sarah Pribek started to take shape in my mind. It was really clear to me that she lived and worked in the Twin Cities.
However, the subtext to that question is usually, “Why not write about California, since that’s where you live.” My answer is that I need a firewall between my real and fictional worlds. I need the setting of a book to be not quite real, like a movie set on which the story plays out.
Also, Sarah is a transplanted Westerner; she’s from New Mexico. I knew better than to try to give Sarah the voice and memories of someone who grew up in Albert Lea, eating walleye-on-a-stick at the county fair. Some of her memories of being a newcomer to Minnesota reflect mine. In Sympathy Between Humans, she remembers finding it strange to be in a place where ‘it had to get warm enough to snow.’ That’s a very weird idea to someone from a more southern climate.
By the way, that’s not the most frequent question about Sarah.Continue reading