Sunday, November 14, 2010

What Makes a House Feel Like Home?

I am just back from Murder and Mayhem in Muskego. I had a fantastic time with my sister and brother mystery authors, revisiting old friends and adding a few new ones. I met Ridley Pearson for the first time, even though we both lived in St. Louis. I told him that I modeled the house that Kiki rents after the house he used to own in Webster Groves. "I loved that house," he said. I think it tickled him that I'd "immortalized" it. I even populated the main house (Kiki lives in a converted servants' quarters in the backyard) with Leighton Haversham, who is a famous author, just like Ridley.

At the conference, I chatted with Julie Kramer, F. Paul Wilson, Blake Crouch, Joe Konrath, Shane Gericke, Reed Farrell Coleman, and Jeff Abbott. I got to pat Christa Faust's Boston terrier, Butch (above taking a well-earned nap). What a sweetie!

I also met Dan Judsen, Kat Richardson, and Brian Wiprud, which whom I'd had an email correspondence and whose sense of humor I enjoyed. Kat had a wonderful idea. She said that once a week we should pick up the phone or email an author we know that we admire and tell that person what a great job he/she is doing. You see, we authors work in such solitude and we're only as good as our last book, so we could use a lot of encouragement. I think that's a grand idea!

Best of all, I was re-united with my sister panelists from last year: Denise Swanson, Shirley Damsgaard, Deb Baker and Julie Hyzy. We were interviewed by the dashing Tom Schreck. What a great discussion we had! Tom asked us why we write, and all of us said we write for the enjoyment of other people. Okay, and yeah, it's addictive and this is what we all enjoy. But Tom noted that the male authors when asked the same question at an earlier panel said they all write for themselves.

I guess that's not so surprising, but it is telling. We women authors all feel this tremendous responsibility to our readers. And it shows in how we talk to fans and how we think about what we write. Although our group had the 1 p.m. panel slot, which is notable for sending attendees off to the Land of Nod since their tummies are full from lunch, we spoke to a very attentive packed house. Our group was so entertaining that one woman soaked a tissue from crying because she was laughing so hard. The crowd was totally engrossed in our quips, jokes and observations. We rocked!

And we couldn't have been nearly so funny or interesting without Tom, who is a wonderful sport.

At the party at Chez Jordan (the home of the fabulous Jon and Ruth Jordan of CrimeSpree Magazine), I got to talking with my friend Judy Bobalik about houses. Judy told me that when she went house-hunting, she knew immediately when she found the house she wanted. It had character.

This week, I'm moving to a house we just bought on Jupiter Island in Florida. It's off the road, so you can't see it. It's white and older and it just has loads of character. The minute I walked into the house, I knew it was meant to be mine. From the top floor study, I'll be able to sit and look at the ocean.

A few photos from the house are below. The first is a picture of the beach, natch. I'm going to try to post more pictures as time goes on. I hope to volunteer to help save sea turtles that nest on the beach. My family will all be at the house for Thanksgiving. The second photo shows my adorable grand-nephew Skyler enjoying the sand as my son Michael and his cousin Lexie (Skyler's mom) keep a careful eye on the toddler.

I'm curious: When you look for a place to live, what is it you look for? Do you like a modern home with all the conveniences? Or like me, do you prefer a house rich in character? I think of all the storms this house has survived, and it reminds me of the women in my family: tough and tested.
How about you? If you were buying your dream house, what would you look for? What sold you on the place where you live?


Linda O. Johnston said...

Looks like a wonderful area for a home, Joanna, but I don't envy your moving again. My dream house is the one we built a while back and still live in.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Linda, fortunately, I'm not really moving. I'll just be down there in the winter, so I don't have to pack up everything. Glad to hear you live in your dream home.

Dru said...

Your winter home area looks beautiful and peaceful.

Enjoy! I'm glad you're rooting for the sea turtles. They need all the help they can get.

Monica Ferris said...

When I was in high school I was a big fan of the tv show The Addams Family -- and I used to wish we lived in a house like that!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Dru, I've heard that numbers of sea turtles are down because of the BP crisis, so I'm especially eager to do what I can.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

The Addams house, Monica? Hmmm. That definitely was not on my list, but...

Betty Hechtman said...

I have noticed the older I get, the more I feel at home where ever I go.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

There's a lot of truth to that, Betty. I think it's because we're comfortable with ourselves.

NL Gassert said...

We’re a military family, which means we often don’t have a choice when it comes to housing, but we make the buildings we live in homes by bringing along some treasured possessions – a favorite armchair and throw or a huge, oversized couch that simply has to fit (and once didn’t). Plenty of family photographs are a must. But what makes us feel at home the most is the sense of community and neighborhood up and down military streets.

We’ve been a military family for over twenty years now, which means our time in the service in coming to an end soon, and the idea of not moving anymore scares me :-) Having said that, though, I have definite ideas about the kind of house I’d like to live in: old, character, with a cozy bathroom and a HUGE tub and fireplaces throughout. Beach and sea turtles included. Good luck with that, Joanna.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Nadja, I have two fireplaces here in Virginia. They are both gas. I have used them more than the wood ones I had in St. Louis. With a flip of the switch, there's fire and I love that. The bathrooms in the "new" house aren't spacious, so my husband and I have joked that maybe we'll drag two tubs out to the surf like the Cialis commercials! But we can always add a tub and fireplace and you can't add turtles, right?