Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Port Presque Isle: A Mythical Place Born from My Youth

Port Presque Isle, the setting for The Old Mermaid's Tale, doesn't really exist except in parts. When I started writing Mermaid, I set it in Erie, PA but as the book progressed I realized that the story I wanted to spin, the web I wanted to weave, was incompatible with the actual layout of downtown Erie. Plus my over-50 brain couldn't recall details of location from my childhood. So Port Presque Isle was born. 

Of course the peninsula in Erie, on whose beaches I spent some of the best parts of my youth, is called Presque Isle State Park so the name was easy to come by. As I built my city I built in many places I recalled with great pleasure -- the bookstore on French Street, Sullivan's Pub and the Crazy Horse Saloon, Waldameer Park, the museum on Sixth Street, the watch tower on the docks. But I was also able to adjust the locations to place businesses where I needed them to be, especially the Canal Street Diner and the Old Mermaid Inn itself.

There's something sort of lovely about inventing a place that is similar to a place you love but has charms of its own. For my new novel, Depraved Heart, I invented an island that I named Hephzibah Regrets off the coast of Salem and Gloucester. And my next book, The Whiskey Bottle in the Wall, is entirely set in a mythical Pennsylvania Dutch community, Marienstadt, which is based on my home town. Of course, inventing place is one of the joys of writing which I need to get back to now.

This blog post is part of the April 2012 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. Thanks for visiting.


  1. Hi, yeah, that's great, inventing an imaginary place where people live. I am doing that in my serialized story on my blog. It is great fun, too. YOu can put anything anywhere and have it look like whatever you wish. Your Isle sounds fascinating, too!
    Best regards to you. Ruby, aka Grammy

  2. I agree! My first ok is set in alabama in a tiny small town that reminds me somewhat of a town in Maryland, where I grew up. Constructing that town was very much like constructing a character.


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