It was probably inevitable that I’d write about Guelph.
I was born there, I grew up there, and I still go back every year to visit my parents. Now that I’ve started writing this draft of my novel, I find myself thinking a lot about the way Guelph looks and feels, from its downtown core to the outer suburbs. Certain scenes in my book are set in real places, like the Bookshelf Cafe and at Guelph Lake Island for the Hillside Music Festival. Other scenes happen in places that used to exist, but have actually closed down (R.I.P. Latino’s Restaurant).
One of my writing tricks is to open up Google Maps and use Street View to check on specific aspects of a place. I can sit at my desk in Montreal and virtually drive the streets of Guelph. It’s not the same as being there, but Street View provides me with all kinds of useful details to add depth and realism to my writing.
Of course, the strange thing about setting my novel in my hometown is that the city has changed in the twenty years since I lived there. Every year, real-world Guelph diverges a little more from the Guelph in my memory. I don’t think this is a major problem, but it means that my book is set in a kind of alternate Guelph, one that will hopefully look and feel like the city that lives inside my head.
I took the photo illustrating this post on Saturday, while I was helping out at the lovely Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair here in Montreal. The Atwater Library is currently displaying the “Scottish Diaspora Tapestry,” and we all know that Guelph was founded by proud ex-pat Scot John Galt, right? Actually, I just looked him up and learned that Galt is also considered to be “the first political novelist in the English language.” Huh.
My novel is not particularly political, but hopefully I’ll do my hometown proud.