Sunday, April 14, 2013

Researching Hidden Under Her Heart - A Day At the Beach

I spent Election Day, 2012 away from TV, social media and the Internet. It was a beautiful, sunny day in Northern California, and I decided to fill in more research on the setting of my latest novel, Hidden Under Her Heart. Besides, my sister was visiting from the East Coast, so it was a perfect excuse to get away from my computer and go on an outing.
 Hidden Under Her Heart is a poignant love story between a young nurse, Maryanne Torres, and a professional triathlete, Lucas Knight. While some of the setting is indoors, inside of a hospital or at a club, a lot of scenes take place outdoors. And nowhere in the world are there more beautiful outdoor scenes than the Northern California coastline.
 Pescadero State Beach is a beautiful and relatively remote location a mere forty minutes from populated Palo Alto. We took the winding La Honda Road starting just outside of Woodside, California. It is hard to believe that Silicon Valley is only a few miles away. Oak trees soon gave way to towering redwoods that spire to the skyline.
It was a bright and sunny day, but as we navigated the hairpin turns we lost sight of the sunlight. Dark brown tree trunks, dark green leaves, and dark shadows transported us into an ancient forest. Very narrow shoulders made biking extremely treacherous, and we only passed one brave soul pedaling furiously up the hill.
 The road continued through incredibly gorgeous vistas to La Honda, California. After passing the fire station, we came across an old fashioned shopping center and stopped off to take a picture of a payphone nestled on a community bulletin board with actual pieces of paper and tear-off stubs. Yes, this was how people advertised garage sales and rental units before Craigslist.

 Rather than continuing on Hwy 84 toward San Gregorio State Beach, we took a sharp left turn toward Pescadero Creek Road. It twisted and turned through Sam McDonald State Park, giving us more beautiful forest views and exciting turns. This was a thrill for me because my family gets car sick and I cannot usually take this route. Fortunately my sister was game for it and only opened the windows to let the fresh, mossy and piney scent in.

Conifers gave way to oak trees as we descended toward the ocean. Soon enough, we were met by a few eucalyptus trees and other alien species, particularly the large stands of invasive pampas grass on the hillsides. Pescadero is an actual farming community. On the one side were rusted old equipment and broken barns, while the facing side held well cultivated crops and storage structures.

Pescadero Creek Road ends at Pescadero State Beach. Words fail me to tell how gorgeous it was. I found every scene of Hidden Under Her Heart that takes place on the beach. There were the footsteps in the sand, the foamy line as water met the sand, the tidepools where disaster almost struck, and even a rock wall with tiny caves and a bench to sit and view the sunset.


 The setting was both beautiful and romantic. I could easily imagine Lucas and Maryanne kissing into the sunset and letting their final goodbye balloons float into the brilliant blue sky among the lulling churn of the waves. Even the cute pink outhouses with their two “scent stacks” completed the detailed picture. And yes, I did visit it and confirmed that it was clean, stocked with toilet paper but did not have any plumbing.



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