The town of Sundog, Minnesota doesn’t exist. Or does it? I imagined it, set The Howling Vowels there, and wove the geography of my real home town into the fictional place. I did this because I wanted to be certain to be able to keep things straight as characters come and go through the town streets. I even took photographs of actual houses where I wanted my characters to reside, and used a map of my town to place the homes of the characters and primary public spaces.
It was fun to reshuffle the architecture and residents this way. If you look in the front of the book, you’ll see that the illustrator, Heather Newman, created a map with tiny, accurate drawings of each important site in the story. But something else is getting reshuffled, at least for my daughter and me: we’re starting to see glimpses of Sundog as we walk along the streets of Northfield. There is no cherry tree in front of our house (the model for the home of the Stephens family) but sometimes I seem to see our grand old walnut fold up, telescope-style, and festoon itself with gleaming red fruit.
Now that Julia and I are working on the second book, we are both alert to the lay of land for how it can be used to tell more adventures of the Howling Vowels. We see the stables on the other side of campus, for example, where in actuality there are acres of wild Arboretum. Sometimes, we even think we hear the horses whinnying. And there is that ruin of an old barn, deep in another corner of the Arb…
So maybe, at least part of the time, I actually do live in Sundog.