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Inspired Correspondent
Maria_H
Posts: 791
Registered: ‎07-19-2007
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Northeast Ohio

An essay and a series of location shots, courtesy of the author!

What do you think? Is it as you imagined while reading the book? Is it much like your own town or where you grew up?

Thanks to Stewart for entrusting us with his album!



About these photos:

I've been meaning to set a novel in the Northeast corner of Ohio for a while now. Originally, Wish You Were Here -- finally set on Lake Chautauqua in western New York State -- was a small-town novel set in a fictional Lakewood, based on Conneaut, but the scope and focus of the book totally changed. The original opening scene involved a policeman discovering an empty convenience mart, setting off a search that would take the reader deep into the lives of the people closest to the missing clerk. That incident plays a background role in Wish You Were Here, a necessary counterbalance to the mostly pastoral moments of the vacationing Maxwell family, but it's never fleshed out; it's more of an interiorized obsession for one of the (many) characters.

That first use of the missing girl comes directly from the real-life case of Katie Poirier who disappeared from a small town in Minnesota at least a decade ago. I recall one fundraising event the parents or church sponsored involved hundreds of supporters making snow angels as a way of remembering her, which, just having used snow angels as a metaphor for absence and lost innocence, stuck with me, as did her case. As the father of teenagers, I couldn't just file it away as a typical tragedy. As always, I wanted to know how it would really feel to the people closest to her.

The dying small town on the busy interstate -- passed by daily without a second thought by drivers -- has always interested me. I'm the kind of person who wants to stop and find out what people do there, how people live. I've been driving by and through Conneaut, North Kingsville, and Ashtabula for forty years, so when I knew I was going to use it as a backdrop, I figured I'd go out there and roam around like a location scout for a movie. I might not use any of the stuff -- none of the particulars, that is -- but I might catch the mood of the place, or get inspired. It was a good excuse to poke around and look at stuff, talk to people. Kind of like being a spy. I took these pictures in August 2006. There are a lot more, but these give you a decent idea of the area.
--Stewart O'Nan



1-Discover Conneaut

Discover Conneaut: Easily the prettiest shot you'll find of the town. It's from Lake Shore Park, where Ed sits in his car and smokes in the winter, looking out over the icy harbor.



2A-North Kingsville, Lake Road

North Kingsville, Lake Road: "She loved how, from the bluffs, on a clear day, you could see all the way to Canada."



2B-North Kingsville, Lake Road

North Kingsville, Lake Road: "She loved how, from the bluffs, on a clear day, you could see all the way to Canada."



4-1-90 from the Rte. 7 overpass

1-90 from the Rte. 7 overpass: "On break, she would stand at the railing of the overpass smoking menthols and watching the trucks flying west into the future…."



5-The Dairy Queen, Conneaut

The Dairy Queen, Conneaut: This is where Hinch and Marnie work, and where Kim has Lindsay drive during their lesson.



6A-Typical older Conneaut homes

Typical older Conneaut homes: In a down market, these are impossible for Ed to sell.



7B-Typical older Conneaut homes

Typical older Conneaut homes: In a down market, these are impossible for Ed to sell.



8-North Kingsville

North Kingsville: Every road that goes north-south has to cross over two separate sets of tracks. That's how you know you're getting close to the lake. Buses have to come to a full stop before crossing.



9-Conneaut

Conneaut: The drive-thru of the DQ -- too narrow for Lindsay, just learning how to drive.



10-Yes, it's real

Yes, it's real -- the cemetery is right next to the DQ: Kim and Lindsay eat their burgers in the shade of the trees, just to the left of this shot.



11-Conneaut

Conneaut: Route 7 headed south out of town toward I-90 and Kim's Conoco. This is her drive to work, and the same route the bus full of searchers takes.



12-Conneaut, off of Route 7

Conneaut, off of Route 7: This is the old bridge Ed notices on the way out of town.



13-Conneaut

Conneaut: This is the back way down to the beach -- the way the kids take at night -- where they can build a fire and look up at the stars over the lake. Note the oreboat, and the lighthouse to the right of it.



14-Conneaut

Conneaut: This is as close to the postcard as I can get.



15-Conneaut, Lake Shore Park

Conneaut, Lake Shore Park: The beach. JP fantasizes about walking here with Nina in the winter.



16A-North Kingsville

North Kingsville: At night the teenagers come down and build fires and drink beer and talk.



17B-North Kingsville

North Kingsville: At night the teenagers come down and build fires and drink beer and talk.



18-I-90 headed west

I-90 headed west: Ed drives this stretch when he's first searching for Kim.



19-Conneaut

Conneaut: This used to be a busy gas station.



20-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: In the middle of a weekday.



21-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: This building had just sold & was going to be developed into "luxury condos."



22-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut



23-Downtown Ashtabula

Downtown Ashtabula: Main Street in the middle of a weekday. Most of the retailers have surrendered to the mall and the strip along Route 20.



24-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: 7,000 sq. ft. building for sale/lease. This is the real estate market in 2006. Imagine it now.



25-Conneaut

Conneaut: Blurry (sorry) shot of a Dutch Colonial for sale, much like the one Ed tries to sell when he returns to work.



26-Conneaut

Conneaut: Vacant light industrial spaces west of town.



27-North Kingsville

North Kingsville: Car carriers from the Canadian Pacific. The tracks run through the woods behind Nina's house.



28-North Kingsville

North Kingsville: The tracks Nina and Elise walk out to the trestle over the Ashtabula River.



30-Conneaut

Conneaut: "Spartans suck!"



31-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: JP's bus stops here in the snow, but the diner's closed.



32-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: The other side of the diner, showing the newspaper honor boxes.



33-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: In the snow, in the hush after the bus has gone, JP sees the post office steps as an abandoned stage set.



34-Downtown Conneaut

Downtown Conneaut: An even smaller lunch place right across from the diner. This one seems to belong to The Speed Queen.



35-Conneaut, Lake Shore Park

Conneaut, Lake Shore Park: "Ed had to believe the lake would always bring people back, otherwise he would have moved to Florida."


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Inspired Contributor
Linda10
Posts: 81
Registered: ‎10-02-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Dear Mr. O'Nan,
 
How can I thank you enough for your photos of Northeast Ohio -- I grew up there!  You've posted pictures that bring back a lot of memories!
 
The Interstate looks especially familiar to me as weird as that may sound (after all, a freeway is a freeway).  But the big median in between opposite directions of travel with those wonderful big green trees on either side, wow, that made me -- as Ed would do when thinking of the past before Kim went missing -- well up!
 
My father had a business in the tiny town of Wickliffe.  When the Interstate went in, things went downhill from there because there was no off-ramp right where he was located.  Just how far west does your Northeast Ohio go?  I know there are quite a few readers who either are or were from this area.  It will be interesting to see what their reactions to your photos are as well.
 
I'll go ahead and ask you this question now.  (I was going to ask you this, anyway, next week.)  If you're not allowed to answer until then, that's fine.  I remember there being a Conneaut Lake Park, too, as a little girl.  It was small, but big enough to have amusement rides.  Do you know if it's still there?
 
Well, I'll stop there and "talk" to you more next week.  Thank you so much for the photos!  What a treat!
 
Frequent Contributor
paula_02912
Posts: 492
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Maria, thx for the pics...they definitely help to bring a much better image to mind when thinking about the places in the novel...
Peace and love,
Paula R.

"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."

Author Unknown
Moderator
KxBurns
Posts: 1,006
Registered: ‎09-06-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

These photos are fantastic!
 
Are any of you familiar with this area of Ohio? If so, share your impressions here!
Moderator
dhaupt
Posts: 11,865
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Wow a picture really is worth a thousand words, thank you for the visual
EC
Frequent Contributor
EC
Posts: 28
Registered: ‎08-24-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Yes, I definitely agree. I see Songs for the Missing a little differently now with the visuals.
Thanks!
 
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Great photos and essay -- bring this to life.

The Google maps satellite photos show the river as brown and muddy. Not anything I would want to swim in! Is this the way it really was, or was it clean and swimmable when you knew it?
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Stewart mentioned in his essay the case of Katie Poirier. Here's an article about the man who confessed to the killing and a little about the case.
_______________
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
Frequent Contributor
bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Maria, great photos which give us insight to the locale. Thanks Stewart.
Frequent Contributor
bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio



Everyman wrote:
Stewart mentioned in his essay the case of Katie Poirier. Here's an article about the man who confessed to the killing and a little about the case.




Interesting article Everyman.
Wordsmith
kiakar
Posts: 3,435
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

I know I never realized how pretty large lakes can be. I really use to feel sorry for the population who didn't live near the oceans but people that have the large lakes, have a beautiful part of nature also. In May, I went up to Chicago and Michigan and saw alot of Lake Michigan. It is quite a picture of serenity. We have some lakes in Virginia but not enormous or with this beauty.
Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Hi Linda,  Don't mean to infringe on Mr. O'Nan's comments but I can tell you that I have been to Conneaut Lake Park many times.  It is actually located in western PA near the Ohio border.  A lot of history there and ambiance.  The rides were so quaint and old fashioned with a wonderful carrousel and roller coaster.  I say were because about 2 or 3 years ago the park virtually went bankrupt and nobody was able to step in and save it.  As far as I know, it's still there but has not reopened.  Sad  :smileysad:

Linda10 wrote:
Dear Mr. O'Nan,
 
 
 
I'll go ahead and ask you this question now.  (I was going to ask you this, anyway, next week.)  If you're not allowed to answer until then, that's fine.  I remember there being a Conneaut Lake Park, too, as a little girl.  It was small, but big enough to have amusement rides.  Do you know if it's still there?
 
Well, I'll stop there and "talk" to you more next week.  Thank you so much for the photos!  What a treat!
 



Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
Inspired Contributor
Linda10
Posts: 81
Registered: ‎10-02-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio



Carmenere_lady wrote:
Hi Linda,  Don't mean to infringe on Mr. O'Nan's comments but I can tell you that I have been to Conneaut Lake Park many times.  It is actually located in western PA near the Ohio border.  A lot of history there and ambiance.  The rides were so quaint and old fashioned with a wonderful carrousel and roller coaster.  I say were because about 2 or 3 years ago the park virtually went bankrupt and nobody was able to step in and save it.  As far as I know, it's still there but has not reopened.  Sad  :smileysad:

 
Hi Carmenere lady!
 
Thank you so much for the info!  I didn't realize Conneaut Lake Park was actually in Pennsylvania.  As a little girl, you don't really pay that much attention to things like that.
 
I do remember one of the rides being something like a Crack-the-Whip.  You sat in a cart that went around a rectangular track; and when you got to the corners, it would whip you around.  So simple, but so fun!
 
One of the things I was going to save until next week, also, was talking about Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio (where Kim's car was found).  The same thing happened there.  It was just about ready to go under; then I guess someone came along and rescued it.  And it became a huge success again.  How sad that Conneaut went the route it did.
 
I'm curious -- where did/do you live that you were able to go to Conneaut many times, as you say? 
 


 
Distinguished Wordsmith
Carmenere_lady
Posts: 529
Registered: ‎11-05-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

We travel the I-90 corridor from Cleveland to Erie often enough to take the side roads sometimes and soak up the local sights and wineries! You can see towns like O'Nan's taken in Conneaut throughout NE Ohio and western PA. Like Kingsville in the novel they are quiet rustbelt towns that usually only see alot of activity during the summer months when campers, boaters and ice cream lickers spend the day. 

Linda10 wrote:


Carmenere_lady wrote:
Hi Linda,  Don't mean to infringe on Mr. O'Nan's comments but I can tell you that I have been to Conneaut Lake Park many times.  It is actually located in western PA near the Ohio border.  A lot of history there and ambiance.  The rides were so quaint and old fashioned with a wonderful carrousel and roller coaster.  I say were because about 2 or 3 years ago the park virtually went bankrupt and nobody was able to step in and save it.  As far as I know, it's still there but has not reopened.  Sad  :smileysad:

 
Hi Carmenere lady!
 
Thank you so much for the info!  I didn't realize Conneaut Lake Park was actually in Pennsylvania.  As a little girl, you don't really pay that much attention to things like that.
 
I do remember one of the rides being something like a Crack-the-Whip.  You sat in a cart that went around a rectangular track; and when you got to the corners, it would whip you around.  So simple, but so fun!
 
One of the things I was going to save until next week, also, was talking about Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio (where Kim's car was found).  The same thing happened there.  It was just about ready to go under; then I guess someone came along and rescued it.  And it became a huge success again.  How sad that Conneaut went the route it did.
 
I'm curious -- where did/do you live that you were able to go to Conneaut many times, as you say? 
 


 



Lynda

"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader


"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
"Um, maybe."
The Time Traveler's Wife

It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
Voltaire
Scribe
DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio

This is a great post, Maria! Many thanks to you, Mr. O'Nan, for sharing your thoughts and pictures. It is neat to peek into the mind of an author and see where his inspiration is from, and then to feel the story truly come alive.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
Scribe
DSaff
Posts: 2,048
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Northeast Ohio



Everyman wrote:
Stewart mentioned in his essay the case of Katie Poirier. Here's an article about the man who confessed to the killing and a little about the case.

Thanks for posting this, Everyman. What an eerie man.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
"A book is like a garden carried in the pocket." Chinese Proverb
My blog: http://bookworm56.blogspot.com
Wordsmith
Tarri
Posts: 457
Registered: ‎02-26-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

I love the pictures, they really bring the town to life. 
Reader
JustJanet
Posts: 3
Registered: ‎04-17-2008
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Thanks for the photos.  I grew up in Southern Ohio but I have been in the north many times.  I haven't been in these little towns but I enjoyed reading about places in the book that I have visited, like Geauga Lake.
Inspired Bibliophile
thewanderingjew
Posts: 2,247
Registered: ‎12-18-2007
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Re: Northeast Ohio

a big thank you, to you maria, and mr. o'nan. i had no idea that the action in the book "occurred" in real locations that the author had actually visited. 
it adds a whole new dimension to the book, for me, because the photos have enriched and made more real, the scenes i previously tried to visualize. what a great touch!
although i lived for a short time in the midwest, in minnesota, and travelled interstate 90 often, i am not familiar with the ohio areas mentioned in the book. however, i have been to sandusky and the amusement park, there.
my home town was brooklyn, ny which is a far cry from a midwestern town, although, believe it or not, there were farms there once!
twj


Maria_H wrote:
An essay and a series of location shots, courtesy of the author!

What do you think? Is it as you imagined while reading the book? Is it much like your own town or where you grew up?
Frequent Contributor
LucyintheOC
Posts: 69
Registered: ‎03-05-2008
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Re: Northeast Ohio

Thank you, Everyman, for the link to the Poirier article. Thank you, Mr. O'Nan for your essay and the photos. I have driven cross-country several times over the years, and have lived in small-town America, so I had an idea of what things looked like in that corner of America, but it was so very nice to see what you saw. I am beginning to have a better appreciation of what an author does/needs to do in preparation and the organization necessary in connection to the writing of a story, even something "made up" (fiction)!
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