It was inspiring for another reason, too--the novel has a unique method of approach: it takes a real-life town--Cooperstown, New York--and turns it into a magical alter-ego: the fictitious Templeton, New York. Instead of a pedestrian, run-of-the-mill upstate town that most of us would take for granted, Groff creates a treasure trove of ghosts, lake monsters, and violent family histories for the main character, Wilhelmina (aka Willie), to discover.
|Fictional Templeton map, snapped|
from Monsters book preview at Amazon
It's also an interesting solution to a common writer's problem--you want to write about a place, time, or subject dear to your heart, but when you begin to faithfully set it down, it suddenly becomes dull and boring. Or, you begin to find other possibilities more interesting.
|Real-life Cooperstown map,|
snapped from Google Maps
"...a curious thing happened: the more I knew, the more the facts drifted from their moorings. They began shaping themselves into stories in my head, taking over. Dates switched, babies were born who never actually existed, historical figures grew new personalities and began to do frightening things. I slowly began to notice that I wasn't writing about Cooperstown anymore, but rather a slantwise version of the original."She then returned to reading Fenimore Cooper and noticed that in his novel, The Pioneers, he reinvented his town as "Templeton, New York," thus granting her a kind of permission to do the same. Groff says: "I relaxed and followed his lead." And in the end, she discovered that "...fiction is the craft of telling truth through lies."
So, reread your favorite author, or take inspiration from a history book, a Golden Classic, or even something as exotic as a grimoire--and don't be afraid to steal, borrow, or completely rearrange material. You never know what could take shape.