Monday, April 30, 2012


The concept of home lies right at the heart of my war novel. One brother wants nothing more than to leave their home and get away from life as he knows it. The other wants nothing more than to stay. But for both of them, once the First World War arrives and changes things, home turns out to be as much about people as place.

 Home for me has always been a nebulous thing. I was an oil industry brat, raised in a number of different countries around the world. We made an international move on average every two years until I was in high school. I hold passports for two different countries- one I didn't live in until I was 7 years old, the other I didn't even get to visit until I was the grand old age of 22. Because I was often the new kid, I was often asked where I came from. I had a standard answer that summed it all up for me and reflected my lack of an anchor point- "All over the place."

From the time I started high school to the time I got married 12 years later, I lived in one city. But that city still never felt like home to me. It wasn't until we chose to move to the country after our marriage that I finally found a sense of my own place for the first time. It came from the choice we made to be there- the first time in either of our lives that we'd made that choice for ourselves instead of following family.

Our daughter was born there, and we'll never lose our connection to that place. But as she grew, we began to realise that following family wasn't just about the places you go. It's about being close enough that your child has her own toothbrush at Grandma's house, or close enough that when you're sick as a dog, your best friend can drive around the corner to drop you off some soup. We moved back to our original city, bought our first house, and though I've never been struck by the same lightning bolt of belonging that I felt in our country home, I've slowly come to realise that this place is probably as close to home as I'll ever find.

Not just because I'm here, but because I've *been* here all these years, and so have so many of the people I care about. I've graduated high school and university, met the love of my life, married, and now my son has been born here. I've left here and returned a thousand times for work and travel. I've seen it change- I remember it as it was 20 years ago, and I can tell you what's different now. I'm a part of this city, and it is undeniably a part of me. The axis of my life right here, and my world revolves around it.

When I started travelling around the rest of this enormous state for work, I was as unprepared as your average city girl for the impact places would have on me. With time, another area worked itself into my brain and wouldn't let go- the place that is the inspiration for the town of Stonehaven, and Edenvale and Golden Valley farms.

 This is not my place. But it is home to my characters. In one form or another, I've spent a part of every single day of the last six years in that place, even though I haven't physically been there in all that time.

Last week we got an unexpected chance to travel up there and visit. I was kind of nervous that it wouldn't be all I remembered, and it wasn't- because it's not Stonehaven. But it is within Stonehaven, and the sense of place I felt was for the town of my story. It was wonderful to go home, to Bill, Len and Kit's home. They are the opposite to me- people who have always known their place. But like me, they all struggle to accept it at times. Writing this novel has definitely been a way for me to explore my own feelings about place and identity.

So, what makes home, home, for you?


  1. Claire, This is lovely! I've lived in the same county of Georgia all my life. My WIP's Cherry Hill is a mix of Carrollton, where I grew up, Temple, where I live now with my hubby, and a bit of Villa Rica, where we lived our first three years together. They're all within a rough triangle of 13 miles to a side. But they aren't really *home* to me. Home is anywhere my husband is. Thanks for reminding me of my truth about what home means to me. ; )

  2. Claire, loved this. Beautifully written. Like you, I moved a lot growing up. The first place I put down roots was the Napa Valley. I met my husband there, got married there. We're long gone from Napa, but it stayed in my heart and soul. It was only natural that when I cast around for a place my character would call "home" it would be the Napa Valley.

  3. Lovely imagery of emotions, Claire. I've always felt divided, between Canada and Turkey - and my inexplicable but lifelong emotional attachment to the UK. I still don't feel permanently settled, as if DH and I could just pick up and move elsewhere any time now.
    Maybe that's why I've got characters sailing up and down the Mediterranean, and all losing their homes in one way or another.

  4. Home has always been a sense of place. As the people in my life come and go, place remains.

    It's not always the same place. Sometimes solid and implacable Rockies, sometimes serene and frigid Arctic, sometimes even the sere and awesome Southwest.

    No matter where or with whom I have lived, my strongest and most lasting connection has always been with the place.

    While one can never go home again, place abides. The Ponderosa pines, gently rolling grasslands, and starkly beautiful sandstone buttes of the Pine Ridge of Nebraska are always a welcome relief from the jangle of the technological world. The deep night and auroral glory of Alaska call me back from the sun and fog of coastal California.

    No matter where I spend my time, I hold these places safe and secure in my mind.