Monday, July 14, 2014


Hi! My friend Jamie has invited me onto her blog to talk about how the city of St. Louis influenced my first YA contemporary novel, THE ART OF LAINEY.

Let me start with a confession—I did not adhere strictly to the geography and layout of the city when writing the book. Many of the places Lainey and her friends go are fictionalized, though several are based on real places. Why did I do this?

First, setting your book in a real place is very limiting. I wanted scenes at the airport, scenes at a concert hall, scenes at a coffee shop, scenes at a dance club, etc. To make all of these real places might have meant accounting for a lot of driving between current real locations. Driving (or even taking MetroLink) makes for some boring reading. Instead, I created a fictional suburb, Hazelton, based loosely off Hazelwood and Bridgeton, where I grew up.

Second, adhering strictly to reality can quickly date your book. The rock club where Lainey and Micah go to see some of his favorite bands (also made up) play is based off Mississippi Nights, a club where I used to go to shows. That club is now closed. Even if I used a current club, like The Pageant, there’s nothing to say five years from now it won’t be closed or moved or renamed or redesigned to look completely different. I didn’t want readers a couple of years from now to read and go “but wait, that’s not what the Pageant looks like” so I made the decision to create fictional places for my fictional suburb.

Third, sometimes reality just isn’t as fun as make-believe. Mizz Creants House of Torture doesn’t exist, but I had a blast designing my own super-creepy restaurant for Micah to take Lainey to. There’s just no real life place that would have substituted in for that.

But other than the restaurant, I tried to keep it real when Micah and Lainey actually go to St. Louis. For example:

They take the MetroLink to a Cardinals game at new Busch Stadium. Not just a Cards game, a Cards-Cubs game…and of course we win :-)

They go to the sports fields at Forest Park, passing Art Hill and Washington University (my alma mater!) in the process. Barnes-Jewish, my former place of employment, is referenced without being named.

They see the Arch while they’re driving on Market Street, passing Union Station and cutting across town on one-way streets. Micah invites Lainey to a free concert at Fair St. Louis.

Denali, the coffee shop where the main characters work, is based off Kayaks on Skinker and Forest Park Parkway. This is actually where I wrote most of the book. (No worries, the coffee shop employees are all fictionalized. There is no crazy guy named C-4 making your food, I promise).

There was a scene at the City Museum that I unfortunately had to cut because it wasn’t advancing the story, but I did include part of that scene in my Canada blog tour so I could share it with readers. I LOVE the City Museum. (If you’ve never been there, quit wrinkling up your nose. It’s not your ordinary museum!)

And finally, St. Louis is much more than its places. I worked hard to capture the FEEL of the area, incorporating urban sprawl and traffic and humidity, etc. This book takes place in June and July and you’ll find lots and lots of hot weather and frizzing hair and rainstorms that blow up out of nowhere.

So although part of The Art of Lainey is fictionalized, I hope St. Louis readers feel like I did a good job of capturing the essence of the city. I spent over thirty years in the STL area, and even though I don’t live there anymore, growing up in “the Lou” was fabulous and will continue to impact the person I am for the rest of my life. Part of the dedication is actually to the city itself, and the book is absolutely a love story to the place that did such a good job of raising me.

Can’t make the event? Paula’s got you covered with a giveaway of THE ART OF LAINEY in honor of the #MMBB tour. This one is U.S. only. Just fill out the rafflecopter below.

About The Art of Lainey:
Soccer-star Lainey Mitchell is gearing up to spend an epic summer with her amazing boyfriend, Jason, when he suddenly breaks up with her—no reasons, no warning, and in public no less! Lainey is more than crushed, but with help from her friend Bianca, she resolves to do whatever it takes to get Jason back.

And that’s when the girls stumble across a copy of The Art of War. With just one glance, they're sure they can use the book to lure Jason back into Lainey’s arms. So Lainey channels her inner warlord, recruiting spies to gather intel and persuading her coworker Micah to pose as her new boyfriend to make Jason jealous. After a few "dates", it looks like her plan is going to work!  But now her relationship with Micah is starting to feel like more than just a game. 

What's a girl to do when what she wants is totally different from what she needs? How do you figure out the person you're meant to be with, if you're still figuring out the person you're meant to be? 

About Paula:
Paula Stokes is half writer, half RN, and totally thrilled to be part of the world of YA literature. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri where she graduated from Washington University and the Goldfarb School of Nursing. When she's not writing, she's kayaking, hiking, reading, or seeking out new adventures in faraway lands. Paula loves interacting with readers! Find her online at or on twitter as @pstokesbooks.

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