My upcoming novel BOOK OF DREAMS is set in my hometown. Toronto, Ontario. I didn’t think I’d ever write that sentence. At first I even did this surreptitiously, adding little details about Toronto that probably only residents would know. I have always felt the need to mask the Canadianism of my fiction, create small town anywhere locations that wouldn’t alienate American readers.
What I didn’t expect was for my editors to suggest feeding more details of Toronto into my manuscript at a recent editing stage. I can’t tell you how much this delighted me. Also, I guess I wasn’t exactly as surreptitious as I thought I was being. Looks like they knew it was Toronto, but not Toronto enough.
So I was free to sprinkle a few little details about. I still went sparingly, always conscious of the potential of losing the interest of American readers because of the setting. This may sound implausible, but I do believe this is something us Canadians struggle with when feeding into the American market.
We follow by example. How many times have we seen our city streets transformed into Chicago, or New York, or various other major American cities for the sake of filming? To see a police car with New York plates and colours is not unusual here. To see an American postal box on the street is not unheard of in Toronto. These things just mean you’ve walked too close to a movie set. It happens in downtown Toronto all the time.
So I used Toronto street names in my book, but purposefully did not set my story in an actual city. I suppose I did this out of fear of being told to change the setting.
With my requested sprinkled additions, it is now definitely Toronto set…and I couldn’t be happier!
I mention Kensington Market, my favourite Toronto neighbourhood. My characters attend Heydon Park Secondary. The bookstore is on Elm Street, just off of Yonge. I even mention the King of Kensington, Al Waxman…and bring up his statue in Bellevue Square Park.
I also mention Carbonic Coffee (Here is their Instagram account), the gorgeously sleek coffee shop on Baldwin Street…as the last place the main character Gaige kisses his boyfriend Logan before all the madness of the story happens.
It’s all there. Except Dundas. I erased that name, just as Toronto City Council is about to do. Only, they haven’t done it yet…so I didn’t have the new name to change the street to. I chose DARIUS…a little homage to another YA book (Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram). It’s a bit of an Easter Egg. I wasn’t going to use Dundas and I really admire Khorram’s book(#1 of a 2 book series).
So if you’re reading Book of Dreams, for geographical reference, in the book’s universe the Eaton Centre is at Yonge-Darius Square. (-:
This post is just to say…WOW! It really makes a difference when you can set a story in the place where you live. So many Canadians shy away from doing so! We do this either out of a false taboo we ourselves created against doing so, or after being specifically told not to do it. It’s weird. These days, I think it’s more self-policing than publishers actually having an issue with it. We remember a time when it was frowned upon, and we keep that mindset.
Or maybe the movie sets around town tell us Toronto is good enough for the movies, but not good enough to BE Toronto in the movies. The New York or Chicago you’re watching on your television screen is quite often Toronto in disguise. 😉
BOOK OF DREAMS is now available for PREORDER! preorder a copy now wherever books are sold!
My publisher actually DROPPED THE PRICE on new releases. You can get the paperback of Book of Dreams for only $12.99! RELEASE DAY is SEPTEMBER 13th!