Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Where the Heck is Grasmere, Idaho?

In fact, whoever heard of Grasmere, Idaho?

It's in Owyhee County, located in the southwest corner of Idaho. This is one of the largest counties in the lower 48 states, and has about the same area in square miles as New Jersey. Population is a about 1 person per square mile (twice as many people as when I lived there), although far less dense than that around Grasmere. (New Jersey's population density is about 1,170 people per square mile.) You'll find Grasmere . . .

South of Grandview.
Farther south of Murphy.
Way south of Marsing.
And way, way south of Homedale.
North of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation.

This is what Grasmere looks like.

At the bottom of the page, you'll see my fictional world of Grasmere.

My editor was a bit stunned when I told her that there are twice as many characters in Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues as there is actual population in Grasmere, Idaho, where the story is set. Last I knew, Grasmere had phone service but not electricity, and outlying ranches have neither. All appliances and electrical devices are run with generators or propane.

In high mountain desert, Grasmere's elevation is a mile high: around 5,200 feet. Precipitation is scarce, about 8" per year, so even though the altitude is high, Grasmere ususally only receives less than a foot of snow total--a dusting here and there that blows away with the incessant, biting wind. In the summer, there is no wind at all, sometimes not a hint of a breeze. Temperatures can get up into the 100's, although average temperature in August is only 86 degrees.

So who lives In Grasmere? I'm not sure, at this point. Grasmere is a city with a post office, but last I knew, only one family lived in the city proper, and they were looking for a buyer. The buildings there are: restaurant/gas station/post office, a house, a garage, and I think a shed. Take a look at the Mapquest Aerial Map.

And exactly why did I set Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues in Grasmere? Because I wanted to make communication a little more difficult, the lifestyle more contrasting to the urban life, and my heroine just a little bit ashamed of her roots. In fact, that's her external character arc, to become proud of her family, her roots, her childhood home. To contrast that, the hero comes from an urban family and settles in one of the most rustic places he can find. His external character arc is to learn that happiness comes from what and who you are, not where you live.

I just don't see how this story could have worked anywhere else. The long drive to the hospital, the infrequent shopping trips to the city, and whole joke about Triangle--these elements are integral to the story.

And, as promised, here's the fictionalized Grasmere:

To get an idea of how I envisioned the story world, take a look at the book video.

How important is setting to you? Let me know and you could win an autographed copy of Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues and a Mule Blues T-shirt (USA mailing only. All others responsible for postage.)

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Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues (See the Book Video featuring Justin Saragueta)
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Judith said...

A fun post, Jacquie. I loved it even more so since I was in that general area. I can't remember if you took me to Grasmere, but I remember we got almost all the way to Triangle! Too bad Tresa was almost out of gas!

lastnerve said...

loved the post and I loved Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues. I won a print copy and gave it to my mom because I already had the ebook and she fell in love with it! Great work!


Lindsay Townsend said...

What an amazing place, Jacquie!!Utterly astonishing!!

Linda Banche said...

The setting can be one of the characters in the story. Sounds like that's exactly what you've made it.

lainey bancroft said...

Jacquie! How...barren. What a challenge to build a character that could 'shake the dust off' her perceptions of the surroundings and grow to understand them with the hero.

(Blushing confession: I have not yet read 'Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues' but I sure want to now!)

Like, right now.

Tresa said...

Maybe we can get to Triangle this summer. I think setting are important. When you have a good setting it is like you are there. I can see where the book takes place in my mind.

Monya Clayton said...

Now THAT is some place. Since I'm an Aussie it reminds me of the Outback.

Yes, it is easier to write what you know, though I did have to research the names and varieties of palm trees so I seemed to know what I was talking about in Blueprint For Love.

I did a LOT of research (work!) for my historical, The Pirate And The Puritan, and posted it under the entry for Blueprint.

Jacquie, have you ever seen the old Donald O'Connor movies about Francis The Talking Mule? 1950s, so you're probably too young. But I actually own the original book.
Your book sounds like fun, too.


Irene said...

Born and bred in New Jersey, I cannot imagine any place on earth so...lonely!
Where did you get pizza?
Where did you get dry cleaning?
Where is the shore????

Loved the blog. It just shows me that there is more to the world than central Jersey. It's just emptier!

Kathleen O said...

Coming from a huge city, I cannot even imagine living in a town such as this, but it going to be a great story to read..

Danielle Thorne said...

Wow! You may have just made that itty bitty town famous! Love the pics and data!

She said...

It's amazing how little I've learned in school about the United States. There are so many small towns we've never heard about. When setting a story there, the place is a character of the story because of the way characters have to live in that town for the tale to be realistic, especially for a person who lives in that town or knows it.

MarthaE said...

My goodness - I didn't realize your story was based in such a remote place! The location really is an important part of your story. I still love this video! meseads[at]gmail[dot]com

Jacquie Rogers said...

Judith, I remember that trip--we nearly ran out of gas on the way to Triangle, then nearly burned up the brakes coming back down. All that and we never did get there, which is why I used it in my book. Perfect location! But we sure had fun on the trip.

Val, I'm so glad you enjoyed the book and I hope your mom did, too. Socrates really kept me on my toes.

Lindsay, we thought Grasmere was a normal small town. I lived several miles from a much larger city, population 1,381, the largest city in the county.

Yes, Linda, out there the land and weather rule. People who don't understand that end up in the hospital.

LOL, Lainey! Yes, a bit barren, but not remote. There's a major city (Nampa, Idaho) less than 100 miles away. I do hope you enjoy the book. :)

Tresa, I plan to take you up on that. We'll get Judy there, yet!

Monya, it probably is similar in some ways to the Outback, although a lot smaller in area. I've heard of Francis the Talking Mule but never saw the movie or read the book. How cool that you have the original printing! Also, I think I must have missed your blog on the historical, so I'll go back and take another look. I LOVE historicals!

Irene!!! You really crack me up. In answer to your questions, the best way to avoid loneliness is to get along well with your family and neighbors (who might live 15 miles away). I never even heard of pizza until I was a teenager. Levis don't need dry cleaning. The shore is 510 miles west.

Kathleen, when I lived in the country, I couldn't imagine living in a huge city. :) But now that I live in Seattle, I can see the pros and cons of both. Truth is, wherever you are, life is what you make of it.

Danielle, the funny thing is, I'm not sure anyone lives there at the moment. But I know they won't buy my book for the library because they don't have one, unless you count the magazine rack in the bathroom of the cafe/gas station/post office.

She, I agree. If a writer is going to use a setting that's unfamiliar to most people, then she'd better know it well.

Thanks, Martha. I'm pretty proud of the video since it's a family affair. My niece's bf wrote and performed the theme song, my sister drew cartoons, my daughter and granddaughter took most of the photographs. I think it turned out really well. :)



Babyblue22 said...

Hey Jaquie,
I think a setting in a story is pretty important, considering that it can make or contribute to a characters personality and how they act.
WOW! What a setting for a story. How was it living there?
I would love to win a copy of Down Home Ever Lovin' Mule Blues!!

Anonymous said...

Jaquie what a fascinating post. How interesting to find out about Grasmere. It is had sometimes to still fathom places such as these still exist. I can appreciate the more simple things in life, though would miss modern luxuries/conveniences most of us are used to.

I am dying to read Down Home, have been hooked on it ever since you posted excerpts and I got to read the great review on CRR.

Pam S

Jacquie Rogers said...

Afshan, I didn't live in or near Grasmere. I lived in the north end of Owyhee County, six miles from Homedale. It's reclaimed desert, all irrigated now, so very pretty country.

Still, it was very rural compared to what most people can relate to. When I lived there, I yearned for the big city. Once I moved to the city, I realized that I'll always take a carry a little of that Owyhee County alkali dirt in my blood. LOL.


Jacquie Rogers said...

Thank you, Pam S. :)

I think my life and my stories are richer for having such diverse living experiences. Truth is, I love both the city and the country.


Barb said...

I love the idea of your town. I am working on a novel with the East Texas town I was born in reinvented. It now only has 3,000 people and I made it even smaller in my book. You are right--we create places where only our stories can be told. Linda B. in comments is so right--the setting is a character. It sounds like a wonderful book. Oh my, another book to add to my pile.

E.A. West said...

Wow! It sounds like Grasmere really is the back of beyond. And I thought I lived in a small town. It's huge compared to Grasmere. Thanks for sharing a bit of trivia about this tiny Idaho town.

Thoughts on Life and Millinery. said...

OK...ready for odd? I wrote a novel three years ago with part of the storyline set in Grasmere. I was looking for an out of the way place, and consulted an atlas for distance etc.

Imagine my surprise when my husband read the draft and asked how I had picked out Grasmere for a plot location for the home of the main characters grandfather. Turns out my husband's grandfather used to take my husband up to Grasmere to fish! I know he had never told me about that. Talk about co-incidents. Wonder how many novels are set in this bucolic setting?

Anonymous said...

My grandparents and my uncle are the owners of Grasmere. I spent my summers there,from the age of 8,till I was 18. I still go back to visit my old friends and fishing holes. RON

Miles Welsh said...

I travelled through Grasmere ID in October 2010.
What made the 'founder' of Grasmere ID call it Grasmere? Was she/he homesick for what I guess was the original Grasmere, in Cumbria UK?
I often hike around Grasmere (UK) and it could not be more different. For a start it is wet, mountainous and green. It is in the heart of the English Lake District where the poet Wordsworth lived in picturesque 'Dove Cottage'.
My forebears were settlers in Zimbabwe and named their farm 'Cotswold' and even worse, named my mother 'Gloucester' (a Cotswold town!). I guess all this was nostalgia because the farm was in an arid ranching area totally unlike the Cotswolds area in UK.
There must be a story behind Grasmere ID and if anyone knows something of its origins it would be interesting to post it.

Tim said...

My Grandma and Grandpa use to run the gas station and I lived there for a while

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