I grew up in New York State, in Upstate New York, in Rochester, New York, but never in New York because when you say “I’m from New York,” to someone from out of state, the assumption is, always, that you’re from New York City. And although I’ve lived my entire adult life in major cities — first Toronto, now Washington, DC — cities, and NYC in particular, are not my thing.
New York City is particularly well-tailored to be bad for me; it is very big, very crowded, and very fast-paced. The first time I went there — which wasn’t until I was 18, even though I had grown up less than a day’s drive away — I hated it. I grew up in a suburban area that edged on rural, and I love space and silence and a lack of people. New York City has none of these things.
NYC is hard for our characters, too. Sometimes the city itself is a friend, sometimes it’s an enemy; sometimes it’s background noise while the dramas of human existence play out; sometimes it’s a refuge from that drama. It is never, however, easy.
But New York is a deeply romantic city, and as I started to take trips there as an adult, I began to discover that romance. New York is still too tall and often too crowded, but I’ve stopped hating it for not being something other than it is — a massive and complex organism, a character in the story of the life of anyone who passes through it, or dreams of it, or runs from it — and fallen in love with it.
This past February I went to New York City for a weekend with my husband, and, both with him and alone, I walked all over Manhattan with a list of locations from our books and my camera. I’ve been to New York City a handful of times before by now, and Racheline lives there and had described many of the places to me already, but I still wanted to research I wanted to travel to the actual places we write in our books.
I don’t particularly believe in ghosts, but I have had moments, standing on battlefields or in old buildings or the site of some great event, where I have definitely felt something. The energy of moments lingers, perhaps; maybe it’s my imagination combining with my factual knowledge. Whatever it is, it’s a deeply emotional experience, and New York City is rich in history and in energy and in my own connection to it via story. More than once I had to stop on a sidewalk to catch my breath because I had just walked past a place where some event in our book happens.
New York City is still not easy for me, and I will, for the rest of my life, identify myself as from New York State (“No not the city”). But I could fall in love with it, for the things in my imagination that happened there, and through that I can keep loving NYC for all that it is, in life and in our stories.