Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Living in a Magical Place

Photo by Susan Stein

I just saw a movie about life as it once was, as it was conceived by its Creator to be, and as it is. This is the profound The Tree of Life, which got me thinking about my own book.

The Tree of Life was set in a little Texas town in the 1950's; my book, That Was Tomorrow, was set in Fairhope in 1922. There is not really any similarity between the two works, but as an author perhaps I can be forgiven the indulgence of imagining my little novel being made into a little Indie movie one of these days. In my mind I've cast a few of the leading players, and I did that as I wrote. The hardest part of my movie project would be to recreate the Fairhope of 1922. I suspect it would have to be built from scratch on a Hollywood back lot.

The Fairhope of today really doesn't look anything like the one of 1922. In those days the population was under 500, and the houses were literally few and far between. The streets were not paved, there were few automobiles, and there were few shops. There were several guest homes, hotels, and hostelries, as Fairhope was a retreat for intellectual Northerners in the winter. There was a pier stretching out into Mobile Bay, where steamers docked after ferrying people from the city. There was a main street, Fairhope Avenue, and it was crossed by Section Street. At that corner were some of the businesses in town--a pharmacy, a harness shop, a general store, and next door a millinery and gift shop. As you walked down the hill--no sidewalks, just packed dirt--there was the office of the local weekly newspaper, The Courier, the doctor's office, and then, on Church Street was The Gables, a large wooden hotel run by Capt. and Mrs. Jack Cross. A few more guest houses, a cable car running down and up the hill to the bay, and the Colonial Inn on the corner of the street running parallel to the bay and Cliff Drive. Cliffs and gullies. Satsuma trees everywhere. Little kids climbing trees and playing in the gullies.

The Tree of Life was filmed in Smithville, TX. So was Hope Floats, and apparently many other movies with a nostalgic setting. For a moment during the film, when I saw a shred of Spanish moss on the trees, I thought it might make a nice backdrop for That Was Tomorrow. But really not. When they walked through town it was a typical, town-square-in-the-middle, layout from days past. In Fairhope there was Knoll Park, azaleas, wisteria, and all the beautiful beach parks. My characters have a number of cookouts on the beach.

Sonny Brewer, author of The Poet of Tolstoi Park, a novel set in roughly the same place and time as my book, said they considered Bayou La Batre, AL when it was under consideration for a movie. How they'd get the sun to go down in the East I don't know, but in Hollywood, all things are possible.

As a matter of fact, I'm still in dreamland myself. The book has been sent to three friends for evaluation of the first draft. If the reaction is good I still have a lot of work to do, depending on their suggestions. If the reaction is universally not good, the book project will be set aside indefinitely. Probably I'll become a more active blogger again.

In the meantime, if you can think of any location that's a little like Fairhope would have been in 1922, let me know.


Cheryl A. said...

I don't think that you should rely so heavily on whether your friends like your book or not - publish it anyway if you like. I can't imagine that they won't like it though. I'm really excited about reading it when it comes out. As for the locale when they make a movie of your book, well you and your Fairhope friends will have the best suggestions on that.

Mary Lois said...

It's not about whether or not my friends like the book. I am not going to self-publish again--and getting a little feedback before I proceed with trying to find an agent, a publisher, or whatnot, is standard procedure. One of the readers is my writing teacher from that Minneapolis writing workshop!

Julie Atchison said...

Oh, the never-ending money issue. I would not worry about the locale, just concentrate on getting the book out and read. I think you'll find that if you are on book tours all over America, someone will know just the right place. I can think of a few towns in southern VA and northern West VA that could be made to work. There are experts for finding or building sets anyway. One step at a time. The book is written- that was the hardest part!

Mary Lois said...

Musing on where the movie might be filmed is just for fun. Sorry if that didn't come over in this post. I am not worried about it, nor worrying about getting the book published, or even worried that its initial readers won't like it. This blog post was written in a what-if mood, replete with how I would cast the movie if I could as well. I am biding my time doing interesting real things, but does anybody know a place that could even be made to look like Fairhope once did?

Linda Horne Small said...

Oh Mary Lois! I can't imagine Fairhope now and what I keep in my head I can't imagine finding anywhere. However, I do love reading your blogs so I'll keep going back and having my memory jogged about old Fairhope. It was such an interesting mix of eccentrics, learned souls, and those with a wider vision of the world. You may, in fact, have to build it on a set in Hollywood or someplace like that.

jacques mullet said...

I'd bet a location could be found nearby to the actual intended sites. Maybe up Bay Minette Creek toward Whitehouse Fork, fish camp area. Down toward Plash's Seafood
on the Intercoastal Canal there may be sites.
Even yet in Fairhope there is hope. There is a 'sieve' looking house near the Sheldon's Castle.
Finding a LONG old pier will be tough anywhere. Hurricanes and prosperity take a toll on friendly
old stuff.
Given the chance, finding the right sites to shoot scenes and framing the scene would be fun.
As to reading your novel , mmmm might never get the chance.

Mary Lois said...

That's the kind of suggestion I was looking for, jacques. Just for fun--but remember we need a wide enough bay that you can't see the other side, and that sunsets are part of the bargain. And a little bit of beach, and of course a pier where steamers dock twice a day. The steamboat-pier bit will probably have to be constructed somewhere, maybe on the Mississippi, where there are a few boats already. I wonder about Bay St. Louis. Too bad they've probably modernized it completely after Katrina. There must be a little undiscovered burg somewhere on a body of water.

jacques mullet said...

Cuz Bucky says they still run steamers around Vicksberg and Memphis. Gambling boats. I assume.
Those would be too identifyable. There is the vehicle ferry at Ft Morgan that runs year round. The park has a few restored houses from way back when. Around Point Clear, from the water, some piers could be 'framed' to look longer than reality. There is the old church down there too and some 'off the path' lanes with small shackety houses stil deep in mosy live oak shade. You sure would not want the current Mobile skyline
with those towers in the distance.
It is possible that the old causeway might have an old house place or two complete with delta for back yard. The State Park at the delta has a long per, too, which could be framed without I-10 in the distance. Everything from Dauphin Island west past the Big Easy got washed away by Katrina. But, some small rural Florida towns could be found that yet have a similar look to old Fairhope. Maybe we ouhta have a road trip to find a spot.

Mary Lois said...

The bay boats, like the pier, would have to be completely constructed from scratch. Nothing exactly like them still exists. As to the locale, I like your suggestions, and what I love is the idea of scouting the countryside for undiscovered villages with sunset views on the eastern shore of a bay.

hgh said...

There are certain stories about sea travels, and i always find them amusing in a way.

Mary Lois said...

Huh? Troll alert.