OS: Welcome to Alice Archer author of Everyday History! Thanks for stopping by!
AA: Story Inspiration Photo Tour
by Alice Archer
Although most of the story takes place in Boston, Everyday History has its roots in the beautiful city of Freiburg, Germany, where I was living when I wrote it. Tucked into the southwestern corner of Germany, close to both the French and Swiss borders, Freiburg nestles against the baby foothills of the Black Forest mountains. It’s the perfect size of city for being able to get around easily on foot while still preserving some anonymity.
I still think of Freiburg as my heart’s home, partly because of the many months, days, and hours I spent there hanging out with Henry and Ruben and figuring out how to write a novel. Henry and Ruben’s personalities and trials seeped into the walls of the lovely house in which I lived, which was the perfect place to write.
I was comforted by the fact that the house, situated between a stately school and the train track that runs along the Black Forest foothills, was exactly as old as my mother, who had recently died. The bedroom I wrote in was the room in which my landlady, who lived downstairs, was born (Germans tend not to move very often).
Being surrounded every day by all of that stability and beauty and groundedness helped me immensely to find my way with this story. Immersed in so much that was old, I felt capable of exploring something new.
As I got to the later stages of writing, I moved sticky notes around on the side of the old wardrobe next the chair I sat in when I wrote, to help me clarify the final order of the scenes.
Freiburg itself makes an appearance in Everyday History. Henry, who’s doing his best to forget about Ruben and move on, takes a trip back to Freiburg, where he studied as a young man. Without giving away any more of the story, I’ll share a photo with you of a building that delivers a moment of importance for Henry. It’s a real street corner in Freiburg where the words in German for “heaven” and “hell” are painted on a building.
What led Henry to that moment was a reunion with a little museum in a doorway. The museum exists in real life, but it’s in Basel, Switzerland. It’s the Hoosesagg Museum, “The Smallest Museum in Basel.” In the story, I moved it to Freiburg and invented the exhibit Henry saw. On the real museum’s website are photos of current and previous exhibits, as well as photos of the tiny passageway in which it’s located, so you can get a feel for the atmosphere Henry was walking through when he happened upon the museum in the story. The last time I was in Basel, the Hoosesagg Museum was showing a glorious exhibit of red toy vehicles.
When I decided to leave Freiburg and move back to the US, I struggled to give my friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic an understandable reason, because they all knew that I had fulfilled a dream when I moved to Freiburg, and that I still loved living there. What I landed on to say that felt and still feels the most true is that “Freiburg has everything I want, except the things I can’t live without,” which includes my extended family, bookstores chocked wall to wall with treasures in English, and easier connections with my readers and fellow authors.
The following excerpt from Everyday History takes place fairly early in the story, when Ruben and Martin, a houseguest of Henry’s, have a little face-off.
(All photos in the article © Alice Archer.)
“Have you known Henry long?” asks Martin, his casual tone contradicting an apparent eagerness to explore the topic. He ambles back to the couch and sits down, but when he bends to put on his shoes, his fingers seem to hurry to tie the laces.
Careful to betray no more than necessary, Ruben says, “I guess Henry didn’t talk about me.”
Martin shakes his head. “No, but he’s extremely private.”
“We worked together at the museum last year,” says Ruben. Oh, we “worked together,” did we? “Actually I was one of his high school interns.”
“Interesting,” says Martin. Asshat.
“How do you and Henry know each other?” asks Ruben, dreading the answer. Sure enough.
“We met at university in Germany. And were together there for a while.”
Ruben moves away to the windows to hide the expression on his face. Whatever it is, it’s more than he wants Martin to see.
But the window reminds him of the last time he was there, so he turns back.
Martin takes a last look around the room, zips his suitcase, and lifts it off the couch.
“History,” says Martin.
“What do you mean?”
Ruben beats Martin to the door and holds it open for him.
“You’ll have to ask Henry.” Martin smiles a sad smile.
Alice Archer has messed about with words professionally for many years as an editor and writing coach. After living in more than eighty places and cobbling together a portable lifestyle, she has lots of story material to sort through. It has reassured her to discover that even though culture and beliefs can get people into a peck of trouble when they’re falling in love, the human heart beats the same in any language. She currently lives near Nashville. Maybe this move will stick.
Check out the other blogs on the Everyday History Blog Tour:
Jun 22 – MM Good Book Reviews
Jun 30 – Dreamspinner Press Blog
Jul 1 – My Fiction Nook
Jul 2 – Love Bytes