In a previous post, I discussed how I like to see a place before I set a story there. Sometimes, however, circumstances don’t permit that, and you simply have to do lots of research and hope it’s accurate.
In the case of Forgetting My Way Back to You, just deciding on the location was a years-long process. My earliest draft had the characters set in Rhode Island. Because I’d never been near the area, I soon changed it to Florida, but another state lingered in my mind. I played around with the idea, until Pennsylvania won out at last.
I tried creating a fictitious town at first, but I’m no George Lucas. I need established locales to put my characters in, and the adventures blossom from there. Since I’d gone to Philadelphia, I wanted to base it around there. Being a country girl, though, I felt more connected to a small town for this particular story. After much more deliberation than one might deem necessary, I settled on Coatesville as Charlee and Hunter’s home.
Despite it being a day’s drive from my home in Ohio, I wasn’t able to visit the town until this past week…after I finished the book. It disappointed me that I couldn’t use my “field research” to implement in the novel, but seeing the sights confirmed that I made the right choice. Without giving too much away, Coatesville is the cozy hometown environment I hoped it’d be. While it isn’t the middle-of-nowhere neighborhood where I grew up, it’s far from life in the big city, which would make a dreamer like Hunter restless and longing for more. At the same time, the undoubtedly tight-knit community and warm landscapes would draw him back in time.
The stop I enjoyed most was The Cameron Estate Inn, in nearby Mount Joy. The nineteenth-century mansion serves as a bed & breakfast, a restaurant, and a popular wedding venue. In Forgetting My Way Back to You, Hunter takes Charlee there for dinner on a first date, but his romantic plans are thwarted when they discover two weddings are being hosted there. He uses charm to navigate several unexpected twists, and in the end, the evening plays an integral part in reuniting the high school sweethearts. It’s always been my favorite scene, but after going to the gorgeous place, I love it even more!
Here are some photos from my day of setting scouting.