Hawthorne, New Hampshire is almost a character unto itself in How To Climb The Eiffel Tower. The majority of the novel takes place in the fictitious town of Magnuson, North Carolina, yet the city where Lara lives lacks definition in her mind. Magnuson is where her physical body exists, Hawthorne is where her mind still lives.
Lara lived in Hawthorne from the age of eleven until she “borrowed” her stepfather’s car to escape his abuse. Although the town is fictitious, Hawthorne is like hundreds of little towns in northern New England. The center of town revolves around the eighteenth century white clapboard church, school, municipal buildings, and a few shops. It has been essentially unchanged for two hundred years. Lara spent her free time behind the granite facade of the Hawthorne Public Library because it was the only place in town she felt safe. After dark, she walked the five miles out of town to her stepfather’s sprawling dairy farm.
The families have probably not changed much either. Most of the current residents of Hawthorne can trace their family back to the 1600’s. The last wave of newcomers came during the Great Potato Famine. Anyone living in town for less than three generations is considered as being from “away.” This insularity prevented the townspeople from confronting Dale, a member of one of the oldest and wealthiest families in town, about the way he was treating Lara. Hawthorne is a picturesque town, yet it is also the setting of Lara’s nightmares.
Writer friends out there in the ether, do you have settings that serve as secondary characters in your books? Do you develop backstories for them like you would for a character? I’d love to hear about them.