The setting of my new novel, Where Shadows Loom, is a contemporary small town in the western most reaches of the Eagle Ford shale oil play in South Texas. I named this town Hubert Switch. Why do I bring this up? Well, recently, a reader asked me where exactly is Hubert Switch. Does it really exist? I get this question of setting quite a bit actually, where both my novels are concerned. My reply is always the same: it’s wherever you want it to be. As a writer, that’s generally how I look at questions that concern setting. I provide the description of place, the characters that populate that space in time, and you, the reader, with your imagination, conjure up images that utilize those ingredients as you may.
Isn’t that the beauty of reading fiction? Isn’t that what sets it apart from other forms of entertainment, from other forms of communication, information, even art? The author strings together the words, but you, the reader, envisions those words into places and faces–the presence of each, the significance of each–as you see fit. For me, as both a writer and a reader of fiction, that is indeed the beauty of it. The writer and the reader both are required. And the results are limited only by the number of readers who involve themselves to complete the task. Maybe only by degrees, but the reader’s image of Hubert Switch will be different than mine. The reader’s take, your take, on Wendall Connor, on Conrad Murphy, on Sergio Guajardo each will be different than mine.
But back to the question about Hubert Switch, Texas. Does it really exist? Well, in a form, it does. As the photograph attests, it is a real place. It occupies space, at this very moment in time, literally. A simple railroad switch, (which, incidentally, is little more than a junction for changing railway destinations) in San Patricio County, Texas, Hubert Switch lies just down the road from where I grew up. Out in the middle of nowhere, it has never been more than that, but with this author’s imagination, it was moved ninety or so miles northwest and was populated with enough people to build it into a living, breathing, small town. Beyond that, you, the reader, tell me about Hubert Switch. Where is it, exactly? What kind of place is it, exactly? I look forward to hearing what your imagination conjures up.
Because that’s the beauty of the written word.