Welcome to my stop on the tour!
Lois Metzger is here sharing some thoughts on her fictional Queens neighborhood, Belle Heights. Being a Long Island girl, NYC will always be my city and I loved how Lois came up with her ideas on the neighborhood. I'll always be a New York girl so this was a real treat for me :)
There's also a giveaway at the end - but you have to read through the post to get there :)
I know you're only here for the details so let's begin!
She still lives in the same neighborhood with her stepmother and goes to the same high school with the same group of kids, but when she woke up today, something was just a little different than it was before.
The dogs who live upstairs are no longer a terror.
Her hair and her clothes all feel brand-new.
She wants to throw a party—this from a girl who hardly ever spoke to her classmates before.
There is no more sadness in her life; she is bursting with happiness.
But something still feels wrong to Rose.
Because, until very recently, Rose was an entirely different person—a person who is still there inside her, just beneath the thinnest layer of skin.
ABOUT LOIS METZGER:
If you could live anywhere else besides Greenwich Village in New York City, where would it be?
I love my neighborhood and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
There’s a place I spend a lot of time in because it’s the setting for my novels, a neighborhood in Queens, in New York City, that’s rich in geological history but where there’s not a whole else going on. It’s called Belle Heights and it doesn’t exist.
The first time I wrote about Belle Heights was in my book, Missing Girls. To Carrie, the main character, “Belle Heights, out in the far reaches of an outer borough of New York City, felt more like an absence than a presence, a nothing instead of a something. It wasn’t quaint and friendly, like a small town. It wasn’t thrilling, like the center of a big city. It wasn’t hushed and beautiful, like the countryside. In fact, it looked washed-out, colorless—a smudge of a neighborhood.” Like most kids growing up in Belle Heights, Carrie can’t stand the neighborhood.
In my last novel, A Trick of the Light, the narrator, who actually likes Belle Heights, describes it as having “a pleasantly anonymous quality. Planes are constantly overhead, which creates a whooshing sound in the sky; the Belle Heights Expressway is always crowded, creating a whooshing sound on the ground. Some streets are hilly as roller coasters because back in the Ice Age glaciers traveled south, pushing rocks and sand and clay in front of them, and the glaciers stopped here before moving up north again. They left all their glacier junk behind, right here in Belle Heights.”
Change Places with Me takes place in the year 2029. Rose, the main character, even likes the neighborhood in the future: “Everyone said Belle Heights was so boring, a big chunk of nothing. Belle Drive, the busiest street, was a museum, a fossil, a dinosaur compared to neighboring Spruce Hills, which had giant stores like Target, Home Depot and Asteroid, and smaller, trendy stores opening all the time. But Rose decided she liked the fact that, except for the hydro-buses (and she could hear one wheezing behind her, a sure sign it was about to stall), long, winding Belle Drive had changed so little over the years.”
When I was growing up in the real neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, I found it crushingly dull. Now Flushing is a very different place, vibrant and diverse. But my imagination lives in the “old” Queens, which is why I had to invent Belle Heights, a place practically untouched by time.
The “Belle” comes from Belle Boulevard, an actual expressway in Queens, which like any expressway of course isn’t very belle. (Nor is the nearby real-life Utopia Parkway a slice of heaven.) The “Heights” comes from the equally real neighborhood of Jackson Heights, and suits fictional Belle Heights because of the steep hills left behind by the Ice Age.
The best thing about a dull, monotonous place is that it creates a strong contrast to the characters themselves, going through their own earth-shattering changes; and the uneven landscape of Belle Heights, full of highs and lows, is a perfect setting for characters having to navigate their way through their own rough terrain.
Thank you Lois for sharing this with us!
3 Finished Copies of CHANGE PLACES WITH ME (US Only)
6/13: Pretty Deadly Reviews - Review
6/14: Arctic Books - Floral Inspirations
6/15: Lekeisha the Booknerd - Review
6/16: Here's to Happy Endings - Guest Post
6/17: The Irish Banana Review - Review
6/20: Brittany's Book Rambles - Q&A
6/21: Pondering the Prose - Review
6/22: Red House Books - Guest Post
6/23: Literary Lover - Review
6/24: Storybook Slayers - Top 10