As I’m wrapping up final changes to AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE, in preparation for review readers next week, I decided to add an author’s note about some of the little details. I wanted to share it here.
Author’s Note About This Story . . .
AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE started with the title, as part of an assigned-title writing contest. Chapter 4, A Better Picture, in its earliest form, was a winning short story for adult fiction.
Kate and Gio ruled the creation of this book from the very first, “Hey lady!” I knew from the second my fingers typed those words that Gio was an Italian-American deli owner who admired a chocolatier named Kate, but their surroundings were a bit of a blur at that point. One would naturally think of New York, New Jersey, or Philly, wouldn’t they?
Because I have no personal knowledge of big, northeastern cities—only what I’ve seen in movies and TV—I set about finding a setting for the story that was more within my scope of experience. A defining school year of my youth waved its arms wildly to jog my memory.
After spending the first 11 years of my life in the Los Angeles area, I had been temporarily transported to an alien, rural Colorado environment to endure seventh grade. Until then, I’d never seen cattle guards or people who waved as you drove by.
I’d never seen a middle school with only eighty students or talked on a phone that had a party line. I hadn’t yet sat at an old-fashioned soda fountain in a drug store. And I’d never encountered such a high concentration of people with Italian surnames. I learned that many of the Italian-American families in the area were descendants of homesteaders. (The concept of homesteaders and their living descendants was an amazing concept for me at eleven. It felt like something out of Laura Ingalls Wilder!)
When thinking about where to put ALATIC, I wondered if Italian homesteaders in Colorado were really a thing, or just something unique to that one spot. As it turned out, apparently, they were.
A search led me to a document about the town, Salida, Colorado, called “The Salida-Lago Connection: Pioneers from Lago to Salida,” which can be found at http://salidaarchive.info . It is a history of a large immigration to the town from one village: Lago, Calabria, Italy. Today 7.5% of the town’s population are descended from that group, in a town with a makeup of 12.5% Italian surnames. The document has photos that show how similar the topography is between the two places. It must have felt like coming home for them.
Castle Springs is a purely fictitious town. However, there are parts and pieces of other Colorado towns I was compelled to include. The name is a compilation of Castle Rock, New Castle, and Glenwood Springs. Some of its details come from memories captured as an eleven-year-old and stored half a lifetime—therefore, not reliable. Some things about Castle Springs can be found in real life.
I’ve already mentioned the Salida-Lago connection. Salida, which I visited a few years ago for research, has a charming grassy park across from the library. My author’s brain turned it into a town square. It took Google Maps to prove my creative memory wrong. Regardless, Castle Springs has one. (That’s the beauty of world building.)
Somewhere between Salida and Aspen is a scenic overlook that has stone “teeth” as described in “The Devil’s Maw.”
An underground fire has been burning for over 120 years in New Castle, since a mine exploded there in the late 1800s.
Glenwood Springs has a beautiful, historic, hot springs-fed swimming pool, and caves with stalactites and stalagmites.
My mother once forced my older brother to take me with him, and we camped overnight outside of Silt, Colorado, on a neighboring farm, inside an intriguing stone formation like what I describe as “the fairy ring.”
Castle Rock has, well, a rock that looks like a castle, if you squint really hard.
A woman once described how, in the Victorian farmhouse in the distance, her young cousin had been the victim of a murder/suicide, the work of a scorned lover. My 11-year-old self knew there must be ghosts living there.
I’m not yet done with Castle Springs. Marco & Alyssa, Sylvia & Henri, Sophia (Nonna) & her Giovanni—and others—want their stories told. And, of course, there are still unanswered questions about Tony and his treasures.
Be sure to look for these and other upcoming stories at http://tanalovett.com
AS LONG AS THERE IS CHOCOLATE is available for pre-order on Amazon.