Going Back to the Setting

When I chose the setting for the YA novel Light Fixtures, which features bipolar teen Aurora, I wanted to bring back to life a place I’d known in my youth. Deciding on the red-dust hills of Chalybeate Springs in NW Louisiana was a natural: my grandparents, who served as role models for two of the characters, had lived there, so I knew well its hot, humid air, its flowing hills and especially its culture. (See the website videos.)

I also learned twenty years ago when a good friend of mine, a psychiatrist in New Orleans who had grown up in New York City, told me that in dealing with patients with bipolar disorder, he’d began to notice that many of those he saw came from north Louisiana and east Texas. A chemist before a physician, he believed that most probably a lack of lithium in the soil might be the culprit. Of course, bipolar disorder is often treated with the lithium, so if the soil is missing this natural element, it would make sense that there could be a correlation between lithium-deprived soil and bipolar disorder.

But whether his hypothesis is still valid these days, I do not know (he’s no longer alive), but I do know that when I return next week to spend nearly two weeks in those beloved hills, where the fish ponds twinkle in the dusk and the deer are easily spooked in the piney woods, I know I’ll readily be reminded on why I chose this country setting for the book: the hills speak the truth in more ways than one.

Bookmark and Share