I am excited to kick off the Women Float Blog Tour in support of Maureen Foley's novel. Thank you Lori and CCLAP for getting this together.
I wanted to kick off this blog tour by introducing the setting of the story. This is both where I typically start when I read a novel or, in this case, a novella. I also have a deeper connection to the setting of Carpinteria, California because my mom is from there. After hearing stories of my mom growing up there, I wanted to hear from Maureen her take on the setting.
Here is Maureen's lovely essay about Carpinteria and Women Float.
Someone Please Start the Alligator Pear Cafe: Why I Set the Fictional Women Float In the Real Town of Carpinteria, California
“I sit at the lip of the Pacific Ocean.” This is how I describe Win, the main character of my novella Women Float, perched cross-legged and mostly drunk at the state beach at the end of Linden Avenue in Carpinteria, California, where the story is set. She’s at the beach in the last chapter of the book, because there’s nowhere else to go. (For anyone who hasn’t read the story, Win is a young female pastry chef who’s learning how to swim and reconciling the loss of her mother and her own sexuality.)
Like all people in Carpinteria,Win drifts towards the sea because she’s at a loss. Staring into the nighttime sea, she finds both solace and awe there, the smallness felt by pondering the vast watery beyond. The state beach at Linden is at the ocean’s lip and Carpinteria stands at California’s elbow, the point where the state begins to bend down with its hand extending south into Baja California.
No one calls it Alta California anymore. Upper. Above. The state colonized and named and described by Spain, then claimed for the United States, but first populated by Native Americans. In Carpinteria, the legend goes that then-governor of Alta California, Gaspar de Portola, named the town the Spanish word for carpenter shop because of the all the Chumash building boats in the town. To this day, tar oozes naturally up from the ground and could be used to caulk boats or other things, like flat tires, old books or repairing broken bird-wings.
That last line is not entirely true. Women Float is not entirely true, either. So, why use an actual place to set a fake story? That was the question I struggled with in the first drafts of the book, so I kept the setting for the story vague. As in coastal, but location unknown. As a young writer, I thought Women Float would be more universal if the story’s setting remained opaque. But in editing the book for publication, and as middle-aged adult living in Carpinteria on my own terms, I realized how proud I am of the town and how important the intricacies of this place are for the story to remain authentic.
So, with my editor’s encouragement, I returned Women Float to its exact and specific geography. Beach town, a few streets, only two traffic lights. I used actual businesses and streets, sometimes changing the names to protect the innocent. The book can be read carefully as a map of this place. I wanted a reader to be able to navigate Carpinteria through the words alone. The one complete fabrication is the restaurant where Win works: the Alligator Pear Cafe. My hope in inventing this business is that someone will actually open it here; we desperately need some authentic French pastries in town.
In the end, I found it important to use language to transform Carpinteria into a realistic backdrop for this story and these characters in such a way that the town itself becomes a part of the plot. How is Win affected by the natural features of this place, hemmed in by water and mountains, sky and sand? What is it like to face great loss while bounded by unsettling beauty? How does a woman fear the water when she lives surrounded by it?
My ancestors, the Bailard family, arrived in Carpinteria in the 1860s and we still farm on some of the original land bought back then. My roots here run deep and it is a privilege to work and live in this place. Giving the my hometown a new literary landmark, in the form of my novella, is my offering back to this place that nurtures me, feeds my creativity and continues to give me stories, comfort and a wild territory for my imagination to haunt.
|Carpinteria, CA - Winter Sunset near where the tar oozes naturally. (Photo by M. Foley)|
Thank you Maureen and Lori! Here is to a beautiful and fun Women Float Blog Tour.
Check out these other lovely posts on the follow blogs:
1/14 - Love at First Book: Review and Short Interview
1/15 - Words, Notes, Fiction: Review and Interview
1/16 - Chick Lit Central: Mermaid Essay and Giveaway
1/17 - Little Fiction: An Excerpt
1/20 - The Relentless Reader: Review
1/21 - Curbside Press: Female Essay
1/22 - Lesbrary: Audio Excerpt
1/23 - Lovely Book Shelf: Song List
1/24 - WordPlaySound: Podcast
1/27 - Gaper’s Block: LGBTQ Essay
1/28 - Guiltless Reading: Foodie Guest Post