The Perfect Setting
Updated: Apr 12, 2022
I set my first novel, Machine of War, in the fictional town of Tully, Illinois. Tully is very similar to a real town in Illinois called Sterling. My mother was raised in Sterling. I was going through some of her photographs and became inspired by the almost studio backlot feeling of the town. She worked at a movie theater when she was a teenager and that inspired me to not only give my hero his first job at a theater in Tully but also use it as the scene of the murder.
I considered flying out to Sterling and its neighboring towns to get a feel for the place but realized it would be impossible due to the coronavirus pandemic. So I had to use my imagination, the photos, some memories from when I visited the place as a teenager, and web image searches.
Having a world for my protagonist to roam around in really helped me stay away from dead ends and writer's block. Like any real small town, there's always something interesting going on or someone odd to run into.