Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finding Inspiration in Chicago

Did you ever visit a city and fall so in love with it you felt like you must have lived there in a past life? Or were simply drawn to some indescribable piece of it? The culture, the smells, a certain park or shopping mall?

I've had a life-long fascination with the city of Chicago, starting when I was very young and we traveled there to visit my maternal grandfather's family. Last month, my husband I took a trip to Chicago for our wedding anniversary. It was the first time we've been anywhere alone together overnight that didn't involve our daughter or a band function, since before she was born. We had a fantastic time!

We stayed at the Hampton Inn and Suites on West Illinois Avenue, right next to a fire station, but that didn't bother us. Being city people at heart, we loved being back in the middle of the hustle and bustle. We took a river cruise, walked about a million miles, shopped, ate too much, and I even had my palm read. By the way, according to the woman who read it, I'm due for that best seller next September. :)

I've set one unfinished contemporary romance manuscript in Chicago, and after visiting the neighborhood where my heroine lives, I have a renewed interest in tackling that project one day. Teresa, the heroine from my latest release, Playing for Keeps, is originally from Chicago, but since Teresa is a demon who's been dead over one hundred and fifty years, the Chicago she remembers is not the current one.

It was interesting to visit the Water Tower because it's one of the few structures that survived the fire of 1871, meaning you won't find many structures in the city older than that, even though Chicago was settled in 1832. Of the structures that survived the fire, most have been torn down and re-built.

What really struck me about the city were its citizens. As we stood on street corners, maps in hand, trying to figure out where Lake Michigan was because we knew then we'd be facing east, total strangers came up to us and asked if they could help. By the end of our few days there I was able to point out a street to a stranger, and it was a neat kind of "pay it forward" feeling to do so.

I love visiting cities, new and old, and it's wonderful to find inspiration in the smallest things. That's what we do as writers, after all.

What cities have you visited where you've found inspiration?