Monday, November 2, 2015

Paranormal Road Trip: NYC with Shanna Swendson

Paranormal Road Trip: NYC with Shanna Swendson

Come on boys and ghouls!  It's time to hop on Route 666 for a spooktacular Paranormal Road Trip.

This week's stop is New York City and our special guide is Shanna Swendson, author of the Enchanted, Inc., Rebel Mechanics, and Fairy Tale series.

NYC's Top 5 Spooky Places

All of my fantasy novels so far have been set in New York City, probably because that's always been a magical place to me. I didn't actually visit the city until I was an adult, but I'd seen so many movies set there, read so many books set there, and had dreamed about it as a place to achieve stardom that by the time I did finally go there, some of that magic seemed to transfer to the way I experienced the city. It's a place full of history layered on top of more history, full of possibilities, so I find magical things that inspire stories around every corner. Here are five magical (and maybe a little spooky) places that have inspired my books:

1) Central Park
The very concept of a vast parkland in the middle of a major city is rather mindblowing. It seems to exist on a border between the manmade world and the natural world, and I feel like I've entered some other realm when I visit the park. That was a big inspiration behind my Fairy Tale series, in which the park holds portals to the fairy Realm. The Ramble, in particular, seems to exist in some other sphere than the city, and sometimes you can hear the distant sound of a violin coming from within. Or there are the tunnels under the street that lead to Bethesda Terrace, which I'm pretty sure are passages to a magical land. Then there are all those lampposts straight out of Narnia.

2) Lower Manhattan
This is the oldest part of the city, and although there aren't too many buildings from the colonial era left, thanks to fires, war, and constant reconstruction, the twisty, turny street pattern from that era remains. It's very different from the grid in the rest of the city, and it's one place where I can get truly lost in spite of my good sense of direction and ability to carry maps in my head. You never know what you'll find around the next corner, and sometimes things look entirely different when you look at them out of the corner of your eye. This is where I set the headquarters for Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc., the magical corporation in my Enchanted, Inc. series. It just seemed like the kind of place an ancient corporation would be based, and where you might find a castle with turrets tucked down a narrow side street that you never noticed before.

3) The South Street Seaport
There's something about a tall ship that calls to my soul, and the masts and rigging towering over the docks here seem to have come out of another era. If you look at it the right way and in the right frame of mind, you might even imagine yourself traveling in time. That imagery comes into play in Rebel Mechanics, set in an alternate 1888 New York, where those tall ships at docks are a common sight. I just wish I could see them from the deck of an airship, the way my heroine does.

4) Grace Church
This Gothic-style church makes the list more for what isn't there. When I was initially planning the first book in my Enchanted, Inc. series, I was pretty sure there had to be gargoyles there. It's the kind of building that just cries out for some gargoyles or grotesques. But when I visited the city to research the book and took a good look at the church with my story in mind, I was surprised not to find any gargoyles at all. That ended up playing into my story. And you kind of have to wonder where the gargoyles might have gone …

5) The mansions of Fifth Avenue
This is another item on the list that's about what isn't there anymore. For a rather brief period of time, the stretch of Fifth Avenue facing Central Park was a row of impressive mansions. These buildings nearly filled entire city blocks and looked like palaces. But that's some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and although you'd think a building would be substantial, these turned out to be rather ephemeral, gone within a couple of decades and replaced by tall apartment buildings. There are only a few traces left of what was once there, with some of the old mansions now serving as museums, or the gates from a mansion now gracing the gardens in the park. This was one case where I couldn't research a book setting by visiting it because the setting I wanted to use in Rebel Mechanics was no longer there. Fortunately, a lot of photos were taken of these homes, inside and out, and a few facades still exist to help us imagine the ghosts of what briefly existed there.

Thank you Shanna for giving us such a haunting tour of NYC! 

To learn more about Shanna Swendson and her books, please visit her website.  You can add here new steampunk fantasy novel Rebel Mechanics here on Goodreads.

Rebel Mechanics steampunk fantasy by Shanna Swendson

What did you think of Jamie's picks for spooky places?

On our last Paranormal Road Trip we visited Los Angeles with Jamie Schultz.  Next week we'll be traveling to Washington D.C. with R.S. Belcher.

Join us for another spine-tingling Paranormal Road Trip...
if you dare!

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