For the past few months, I’ve been living on the Amalfi Coast, where the water is amazing shades of blue, the air smells like lemons, and the gardens are straight out of fairy tales.
All that has been only in my head, of course. For these past glorious months, I’ve spent most of every day either writing my upcoming novella for the AMALFI NIGHT BILLIONAIRES series, or reading the wonderful stories written by my fellow authors in that series. I know you’ve been reading about the series in some recent posts.
Honestly, coming back home wasn’t easy. I love where I live, but after the glamour of the Amalfi hillside villages and the glowing Mediterranean grottos, Florida felt a little flat.
I often feel that way after I spend time in a novel with a great setting. I put down a wonderful book with a wistful sigh. I frown, blink and… and then, for a little while, I walk around feeling completely dislocated. After having lived in a castle, on Mars, in a Hobbit hole, in a hundred-acre wood, I can’t understand how I could possibly have been transported to somewhere so mundane as my house.
The first time I felt that strange confusion of finding the real more unreal than the fiction was when, as a child, I read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. Yorkshire, with its wind-swept moors, creepy old mansions, and half-dead, half-haunted gardens, had so completely captured my imagination that it almost hurt to be returned to my own life.
After that came Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, and a hundred other wonderful novels with better-than-life settings.
How about you? When you finished the Outlander series, did you long for the crisp Highland air? When you came home from Hogwarts, were you annoyed that your house doesn’t have towers and great halls and staircases that move? I’d love to hear which settings have swept you out of your own life and into their magic.
I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen poster today, so I hope you’ll share!
ORIGINALLY POSTED: August 11, 2010
When I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, it was way back when the second book had only been in stores a few months and most of the world hadn’t yet been bitten by the HP bug. It took a few chapters, but when we got to Diagon Alley I knew I’d stumbled upon something special. I remember feeling like I witnessed history in the making, feeling assured that once the books caught on, we’d have another Narnia Chronicles on our hands. The most vivid emotion though was that this book was the first time I’d read something as an adult that made me feel like books used to when I was a kid. I realize that is a terrible sentence, but hopefully you know what I mean. In short, I was mesmerized.
I quickly devoured the book, then the second, then waited impatiently for the third (which totally blew me away) and about this time word started spreading and the world was about to catch HP fever. It was the first time I remember ever dreaming about characters from a book and it happened more than once. The characters, the world was so real to me that when I was intrenched in one of the books I was completely surrounded. I remember catching myself before telling a friend that the next time I went to England I wanted to make a special trip to Hogwarts.
This last month, that silly fantasy of mine came true. Or as true as it can within our Muggle world. While in Orlando for the RWA conference, me and Emily and my mom made a side trip to Universal Studios to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We got up super early, we hired a car to take us to the park and we walked the long way to the entrance of the park. But we’d been smart and we’d pre-purchased our tickets so we were able to just walk right in. We made a beeline to the HP area (mostly we followed the crowd because that’s where everyone else was going too!)
And then we rounded a corner and there it was, across the way, but Hogwarts rose up from a hill just like I’d seen in my mind so many times. I’ll admit it, I got a little misty and giddy and started snapping pictures. We kept our trek through the park, passing by some really cool looking other areas, but we were on a mission.
Suddenly we were there, right up to Hogwarts door. There’s a ride in the castle, but I had read enough stuff on-line before hand to know that my motion sickness would probably cause trouble, so mom and I headed into the tour line where we were able to just walk through the castle while Emily went on to the ride. (she’ll have to tell you about it when she returns from her family vacation) Inside the castle we saw the hall of portraits where some of the pictures moved and talked. Then we saw Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the entryway to the Gryffindor common room with the Fat Lady’s picture. It really was totally magical and my only complaint was that I wanted it to be longer. I wanted to see the Great Hall with the floating candles and I wanted to see the actual common room and the floating staircases.
But never fear once we were out of the castle (dumped conveniently into Filch’s Emporium, a gift shop where I purchased my own copy of the Maurader’s Map) we walked strait into Hogsmeade. Now technically this was a mixture of Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but it was just fantastic. We bought wands and we had butterbeer (so tasty!) and we saw the Hogwart’s Express (another misty moment for me!) and we bought chocolate frogs in Honeydukes and went into the Owl Post. And I have to take a moment to personally thank all of the English families that were there that day, their lovely British accents really added to the experience for me. Then in the bathroom (which they called “public conveniences”) you could hear Moaning Myrtle whine and cry.
So how about you, what fictionalized world would you like to see come to life? If you could step into any book you’ve ever read, which one would it be? One lucky commenter will win a collection of books I brought back from the conference.