But it wasn't working ... it was too dark, too ugly. What I wound up doing instead was taking the social and political forces of that time and place - flyover country, at the turn of the century - and personifying them. As history converges on tragedy, these five characters overcome their racial, social, and political differences to form a kind of family unit. It's a much more hopeful story, in the end. You realize that, because the characters have spent the whole book coming together, they will be okay, in the end. At the level of the personal, tragedy doesn't have to be inevitable.
I'm glad I left for California. I met my wife there, during the first week of school, and today we have two beautiful teenage daughters. Now that I'm older, though, and living in the sprawl of Dallas, I find myself missing the quiet, laid-back pace of small town Oklahoma. (Part of why I asked David this question is I went from San Diego to Seattle to Athens, Georgia for graduate school, so I was curious about his "reverse" situation. I will say, I was often told I spoke way too fast for Georgia!)
I tend to get less disciplined in other areas of life when I'm close to completing something. The last third or so of a book, life becomes an obsessive sprint to finish the story. It's not very healthy, and not something I can sustain for long. It's the situation I'm in right now ... just a few weeks away from completing another novel. (Congratulations! So excited for you to be finishing up your next book)