I wish I had some better photos to show off than this one, but I was too busy looking with my eyes to take any real monumental works of art.
So I’m in Los Angeles, doing some much-needed research for my upcoming debut novel (and its two sequels). All three books take place in LA, but I’ve spent so little time there that my inaccuracies had become embarrassing–like a zit that sits in the bottom corner of your face and no one mentions it to you, and when you look in the mirror later that night and see it you just want to scream.
It’s kind of like that.
The first set of corrections come at the very beginning of the novel, when Sophie arrives in LA via airplane and her half-sister Caroline drives her back to the Hale mansion. When I flew in to LAX on Friday evening, I carefully noted the strange shapes of the airport (gigantic glass cylinders everywhere that serve no apparent purpose) and my instinctual impressions that contrasted with home (why does that billboard need to be three stories high?). I tried to imagine being Sophie–a teenage girl from suburban Wisconsin who has never been farther from home than her grandfather’s house in South Carolina. And boy, is Los Angeles a shock!
Today I have tentative plans to creepy-drive up in the hills (my friend is graceful enough to let me borrow his vintage BMW), finding big mansions that could compare to the Hales’ and looking for unique details I can include in the story to make the scenery as lifelike as possible. I’m looking for interesting fences, architectural cues, driveway setups, and maybe I’ll not-so-secretly try to find Brad Pitt’s house.
The most important mission of my trip is to get into a school. The school in question is Crossroads School, a private academy that is, functionally and clientele-wise, as close to Sophie’s fictional Bell Jones Academy as I can get. I’m looking for everything. The design of the school, the layout, the look of the hallways, the lockers, the hairstyles, the clothing styles, the slang. I’ve gotten in touch with a teacher there–the head of the English department–in hopes I can sit in on one of her classes to observe. Many of Sophie’s brightest moments happen in her English class, and it’s a good place to see what kids are reading in school (at a school like Crossroads or Bell Jones), how they interact with their teacher, and how they treat one another. In exchange for letting me snoop, I offered to speak to the class about the process of creating and developing a novel–research included!
I have a couple other plans for the week. I’ll be driving north of the city to scope out scenery along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). I don’t want to reveal too much, but there may or may not be an exploding car scene that takes place there, and I want to get the details as accurate and clean as possible.
Already this weekend I trotted the promenade on 3rd Street, visited Venice Beach (I still have sand in my eyes from the freaking hurricane that was the beach yesterday), and got a tour of Hollywood Boulevard. (Why are there so many wax museums?) I’d like to note that all of this was done from the back seat of a scooter driven by a Russian madman, weaving through traffic like I was in some kind of Italian flick. After we finished having some coffee at a shop just across from the Chinese Theater, I told him that moment was the first time all day my heart rate had dropped to a normal resting pattern.
I’ve also stopped in UCLA, where a few scenes in the third book of the series take place, and walked through the Hammer Museum (no book research, just fun). And hopefully before I go, I’ll spend a day at Disneyland with some of my bro pals.
I’ll update with more pictures tomorrow.