In many ways, I think the setting can be just as important to a story as another character. In Kept Tears, I thought about where to set this, because I knew it would influence the types of dates Aaron and Rhys went on. In one portion of the novel, the fae realms, the setting is entirely imaginary, but I wanted to write something I knew well. I decided on Pittsburgh, PA, and it’s a natural for me. Not only is it an iconic city in its own right, but, like Aaron, I grew up within twenty-five miles from down town.
In fact, the scene at Aaron’s mother’s house, takes place pretty much in my hometown, though it’s not named. Pittsburgh gave me several things. For one, it was easy to investigate since, while I haven’t lived there in years, I do go to my parents’ place often enough, and there is just so much online. I wanted to help support some ‘hometown’ businesses, like the Church Brew Works, that Aaron and Rhys go to on their first date. Most of the places in the novel are real, barring the Chinese restaurant and the coffee shop.
Much of Kept Tears is set on Pitt’s sprawling urban campus, and there is a lot of character there, especially if you consider the art deco beauty of the Cathedral of Learning and its nationality rooms. The medieval-looking Commons appeals to Aaron’s geeky sense of history and Renn fair cosplay. Aaron’s life is dominated by being a grad student at Pitt, so its campus plays a real role in Aaron’s life. He spends time in the gym, working on his body’s recovery. He eats at places people will recognize, like the almost-famous Primanti Brothers, and the Original “O” Fries, which is always packed with students. The campus is also where he meets the villain of the piece.
I had fun with putting in some of my favorite places to hang out. Aaron shares a lot of my nerdy tendencies, so places like the Carnegie Museum seemed a natural. It’s a fantastic museum and, again. just adds to the local flavor of the story.
In polar opposites, there is Rhys’s homeland, the fae realms. This allowed my imagination to run free. It’s a magical place, so I could do nearly anything with it. I borrowed from existing lore and went from there. It was also interesting to contrast Rhys’s perception of his home and Aaron’s when he first gets to lay eyes on a world he could never have imagined existed.
Excerpt – “I had no idea the nationality rooms in the Cathedral of Learning were so beautiful,” Rhys said as Aaron led him back to what he called the Commons. It looked more Gothic and medieval than castles Rhys had been in. Last week, he had been afraid that Aaron might bolt when Rhys suggested the young man come to his house. That adventure had gone better than Rhys expected, and he was content to let Aaron chose more neutral grounds, like the Cathedral, until he was ready for a more intimate setting. “I’m glad you suggested having a look around.”
“Pitt has some really unique things. The Cathedral is one of them, and so many people don’t even know the rooms exist. What was your favorite part?” Aaron’s eyes gleamed as they headed into the Commons. Their footfalls echoed in the vaulted room. Most of the wooden tables and chairs were empty.
“Other than this, where I feel like I should be running around in armor, the Chinese Room. The ceiling is incredible.” Rhys took Aaron’s hand, thrilled he let him. What he wanted to do was lead the young man out of the building to somewhere more secluded. He wondered if there was a chance he could talk Aaron into letting his hair grow a little longer. The dark-walnut hue was alluring but, while it wasn’t the Marine high-and-tight style, it was short, which didn’t allow for the natural wave—what little Rhys could see of it—to do much. He considered the possibility the hairstyle had less to do with previous military affiliations and more to do with being difficult for Aaron to deal with if he let it get a little longer and more stylish.
“Yes, it is. I have to admit, I like that better than the room my cultural ancestors made, not that the Italian Room is ugly by any means.”
“Not at all,” Rhys replied as Aaron looked back over his shoulder intently. Rhys glanced in that direction but didn’t see anything other than a few students meandering through. “Something wrong?”
Aaron shook his head. “Thought I saw someone I knew, a photographer friend, but I must have been mistaken.
“Ah. Want to go get some dinner?” Rhys caught Aaron’s good arm, pulling him to a halt behind the thick stone column. Resting against the column, Rhys scoped out the main hall. From here, it was as if they were alone in the king’s castle, and Rhys knew something about king’s castles.
“Yes, but why do I think you have something else in mind?” Aaron asked as Rhys tugged him closer.
“Because you are an intelligent man.”
It was a blast getting to talk about the setting of Kept Tears and I hope I intrigued you to see more. Thanks to Lex for having me over. I appreciate it.
Blurb – Having left most of his arm and his self-confidence behind in the Afghanistan desert, young veteran Aaron Santori has enough on his plate learning to use his prosthetic arm. Attending graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh makes life both interesting and challenging. Mentally, he’s ill prepared for meeting Rhys Edwards, a young-adult novelist from Wales and everything Aaron could want in a man. Between the scars from the explosion and his PTSD, he’s reluctant to date. Ready or not, though, Aaron finds himself jumping into the deep end of the relationship waters.
What Aaron couldn’t possibly know is that Rhys isn’t human at all. As a prince of the Tylwyth Teg, Rhys is fae, with a list of enemies he’s accumulated over the past few centuries—among them a former lover, Morcant, who is back to make Rhys’s life miserable. An unwitting pawn in their Machiavellian fae politics, Aaron only knows he’s falling in love, never suspecting love might be his death sentence.
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Paperback – http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4659
Jana Denardo’s career choices and wanderlust take her all over the United States and beyond. Much of her travels make their way into her stories. Fantasy, science fiction, and mystery have been her favorite genres since she started reading, and they often flavor her works. In her secret identity, she works with the science of life and gives college students nightmares. When she’s not chained to her computer writing, she functions as stray cat magnet.
Jana is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.