Thank you for having me for tea today, Charlie! It’s lovely to be here. I thought since my new novel, Finally Home, is about travel, I’d talk a bit about writing the cities that my characters visit.
I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to visit some of the biggest cities in the world. As a child, I was dazzled by Mexico City’s Christmas lights and rooted for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their home ball park. As an adult, I navigated New York City’s labyrinthine subway system, walked Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, and drifted on a long-tail boat through the heart of Bangkok.
I treasure all these memories, and writing about locations I’ve visited before is a way for me to go back again. Not only to experience the sights and smells, but the thrill of exploring a new place for the first time.
That’s how my short story, Krung Thep, City of Angels, was created. I had recently returned from two amazing weeks in Southeast Asia—my first trip off the North America continent—and I was eager to relive the adventure and excitement.
I’d remembered a photo exhibit I’d seen in Bangkok comparing it to Los Angeles (since both cities are known in their respective cultures as “The City of Angels”) and I thought it’d be poetic to write a story about an LA native lost in Bangkok. Hence, Marco, my novice backpacker, was born.
Now he needed a romantic interest. I have a bit of an obsession with New York City, and Manhattan seemed the natural choice as a hometown for the more worldly character, culinary travel writer Chris.
So, Marco and Chris meet in Bangkok, and relive some of my own favorite adventures—visiting the Grand Palace, taking a long-tail boat ride, and gazing down at Bangkok by night from the top of the Baiyoke Sky Hotel (though I didn’t do what they did up there).
It was a little more challenging when continuing their story in Finally Home. Where Krung Thep was all about two Americans connecting abroad, Finally Home is about, well, coming home, which for Marco and Chris were Los Angeles and New York respectively.
I’d spent my childhood in the LA area, Marco’s hometown and the first location of Finally Home. However, “Los Angeles” is a big area, more of an identity shared by numerous of cities spanning across hundreds of miles. Someone in Santa Monica would have a completely different experience than someone in East LA.
I pulled on my childhood memories and recollections of a more recent visit to capture the feel of LA suburbia–the ordered grid-work of city blocks, the gorgeous orange sunsets shining in the smog-choked sky, the working- and middle-class folks that had never seen a movie star in the flesh. These memories helped me hone in on Marco’s experience as a suburban kid from Culver City, a city west of downtown Los Angeles (and not unlike the area I grew up in).
New York posed its own set of challenges. My experiences there were more recent, but fleeting. Where I once was a resident of the Los Angeles area, I’d always approached New York as visitor. Which made Marco’s perspective as an outsider easy to write, but how to get into the headspace of Chris, the native?
I remembered my day walking through Manhattan’s Upper East Side: the way the cool October light cut between the towering, knife-gray buildings, the manicured perfection of the “ladies who lunch” as they strolled between boutiques, the relentless flow of 5th Avenue foot traffic that didn’t slow down for anything, even a big-budget movie shoot clogging up an entire block. I tried to image what it would be like for Chris—who had spent four years bouncing between third-world countries and existing on street food—to return to that sharp, relentless way of living. It’d be pretty damn disorienting. That I could certainly write.
It was a lot of fun revisiting some of my favorite cities, and it only encourages me to keep traveling to find more fodder for my stories.
How about you? Have any places you’ve visited inspired your stories? If not, what are some of your favorite places to visit by book?
After one night in Bangkok turned into ten days trekking together, novice backpacker Marco and seasoned travel writer Chris parted ways thinking they’d never see each other again. Three months later, Marco still can’t forget the greatest adventure of his life—or the gorgeous guy he shared it with. Too afraid to come out to his family, Marco is suffocating in his suburban Southern California life, until Chris announces he’s coming to LA.
Chris has spent the past four years wandering alone, rebuilding himself from the ashes of a failed journalism career. He arrives in Los Angeles eager to eat, write, and resume the sexy, casual fun he had enjoyed with Marco. But when Chris finds his friend is a terrified closet-case at home, he’s determined to help Marco confront his fears.
Priorities change when Chris’s father suffers a stroke, and Chris rushes to New York City to face a harsh homecoming with the family he abandoned. When Marco defies his parents to be at Chris’s side, Chris begins to realize there may be more to their relationship than just work and play, and that Marco may be the one to show Chris what it means to finally be home.
Zee Kensington discovered a passion for writing erotica in her freshman year of college, and has been crafting sweet and sexy stories ever since. Inspired by her years working and playing in San Francisco’s LGBT community, she is especially drawn to tales that explore the joys and challenges of queer identities.
An almost-native Californian and a card-carrying geek, she currently lives in the SF Bay Area with her husband and toddler. When she’s not writing or catching up on her sleep she enjoys watching films, playing video games, experimenting in her kitchen, and dreaming of the day her son is old enough to travel the world with her.
Finally Home Blog Tour and Giveaway
Join me on my blog tour (August 29-September 12) and enter to win an autographed book bundle of Finally Home and Two Tickets to Paradise!