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  • Kristan Higgins

Who lives there?

Updated: May 12, 2022

I don’t know what I did before Airbnb.

As a writer, I get to travel quite a bit. If I’m going to be somewhere longer than a couple of days, I ask my publisher to get me a rental (assuming the cost of a hotel is about equal to the rental). Sometimes, I rent a place in the winter, since I have that melancholy seasonal thing. When my plotting friends and I go away, we often rent a place for the long weekend.

But really, I’m just a voyeur. I love seeing how other people live, what furnishings they choose, what paint colors, what types of plates. I gaze out their windows at their view, whether it’s a tiny courtyard with a lemon tree (California) or a foggy lake (New York). It’s one of the things that gets me the most inspired to write about a fictional character, because I try to pick a place where my character would like to live. It helps answer my eternal question—what would it be like to live here?

In OUT OF THE CLEAR BLUE SKY, Lillie Silva is a fifth-generation Cape Codder. She lives in her childhood home, built by her grandparents. She and her husband lovingly renovate the place over the years until it’s an utterly unique house. An upside-down house, since the kitchen is on the ground floor with the living room upstairs. The third floor has a balcony and another bedroom and bathroom.

I rented that house with the intention of setting a book there. It overlooks Herring Pond, one of the glacier-formed kettle ponds in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. These ponds are so clear and pure you can see fish and turtles ten feet down. They’re hard to access, because they’re on protected land with only very bumpy and washed out dirt roads. But they’re heavenly, too.

Lillie’s house is a big part of her story. Isn’t where we live always a big part of our lives? It’s where she grew up, the house built by her hardworking grandparents, renovated inch by inch by her own self. It’s where she’s most at peace, where her family gathers. Like a vampire, she gathers strength from her home soil. Her sister Hannah feels the opposite and jumped at the chance to live with their mom when their parents divorced. Lillie stayed.

Like Lillie, I’ve never lived outside of the northeast…I went to college in Massachusetts and lived and worked in New York City as a newlywed. But I came back to my hometown and live next door to my mama. The umbilical cord only stretched so far. I’d never live anywhere else…but I love dreaming about it.

When I was a wee little bairn, my parents built their dream house. It was so much fun, moving in there, the woods all around us. We had a next-door neighbor whose house we could see, but our other next-door neighbor was half a mile down the street.

Then my friend Jeannie moved. To another state, which seemed incredibly glamorous. I loved Jeannie and wanted to be just like her, so I asked my parents if we too could move. “No!” they said. “We just moved in! We're never moving. This is our forever home.”

“Oh,” I said, deflated. I went into my closet and pretended it was a rocket ship as consolation. (I never would see Jeannie again, but I still remember her birthday.)

I’ve lived in my current house for 25 years now. We just renovated the downstairs and will be fussing with the upstairs soon, though it doesn’t need to be overhauled. Hopefully, I’ll never have to move from here. That being said, I’ll still hit the old Airbnb and find some places to spend a few days or weeks, pretending to be a character in my books.

If you would like to rent Lillie’s house, or see pictures, here you go!


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