I set my paranormal series, The Folk, in and around the area where I live—the foothill suburbs of Denver. This always surprises my neighbors, who are convinced that there’s nothing remotely supernatural about the place. They think I should be writing about Transylvania, or at least Savannah. But I’d argue that most places have plenty of supernatural potential, if you just stop and look.
Some towns specialize in being spooky, of course. New Orleans, thanks to Anne Rice and scads of other writers, is everybody’s favorite setting for vampires. San Francisco and Seattle have their moments, maybe because they both experience lots of foggy evenings. I recently spent a few days in Santa Fe, and I’m amazed more writers aren’t setting supernatural stories there. You can’t turn around without encountering a clutch of Calaveras, the artistic skeletons from Dia de Muertos.
But I decided to work with what I knew, for good reason. The mountains, where a lot of Away, Unseen, and Found takes place, can be very spooky. The silence, the isolation, the sound of the wind in the aspens. It all leads to the kind of situation where you find yourself checking to see just who or what is coming up the trail behind you. There’s also the fact that the extraordinary beauty of the mountains is coupled with extremely random danger. Just last spring two house-sized boulders slid down the mountains outside Dolores, CO, on Memorial Day with no particular warning. No one was hurt, but the possibility is always there.
However, I’d argue that you can find the spooky just about anywhere if you only look around. When we moved to Colorado ten years ago, I was a little worried. I’d been living and writing in Texas for a couple of decades, and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find something to write about in my new home. After Halloween that first year, my hubs and I were driving down a particularly steep road a few miles from our house. At the top of the steepest stretch we came upon a couple of kids rolling discarded jack-o-lanterns down the hill to watch them smash. As I watched those pumpkins roll, I found myself thinking, “What if they were heads? And what if the kids were goblins? And what if…” After that, I figured I wouldn’t have any problems coming up with new plots.
So what’s spooky about your town? I’m willing to bet you can think of something. Just consider the parts of town where you get an uncomfortable feeling if you drive after dark, the deserted buildings where you walk a little faster, the old hotel where the ballroom seems a little…weird.
Spooky is all around. Fortunately for us paranormal writers.