Let me tell you about Trona. Trona is where the story for our first book, “Pitch Green” takes place. It is where I went to grade school and Berk went to junior high and high school. It is a very small town stretched out along a desert highway in California’s high desert.
It is hot, (damn hot) in the summer and cold enough in the winter. Because it is situated next to a giant alkaline dry lake bed, it is impossible to grow grass there. However, cactus does very well.
The main industry consists of sucking chemicals out of this giant alkaline dry lake bed and shipping them by the thousands of tons all over the world. As a result there is a constant sulfuric or rotten egg smell that permeates the entire town.
We lived in a small home, not small by Trona standards though, on the North of town, near the edge of the desert. But then, because the town is stretched out along the highway that runs through it, basically everyone lives on the edge. In more ways than one.
Our description of Trona in our book and the lifestyle there is very, very accurate, except for the fact that there is no giant stone mansion in the middle of town, and people are not being eaten on a regular basis by some unknown, creepy monster. Nevertheless, if you have ever been to Trona, it would not be difficult to imagine these types of things going on there.
Stephen King wrote about a similar, but fictional, town in Nevada in his book “Desperation”. Our plot is very different (we would never copy “The King” of horror), but the mood set by the two towns is, well, familiar to each other. It is the type of place that if you were driving through it, and your car broke down, you might imagine that something sinister and nefarious could happen to you.
Having set the mood, or tried to anyway, I must add that I loved living in Trona when I was a child. It was nice that everyone knew everyone. It was fun that almost the whole town would show up at the huge community swimming pool on scorching hot summer days. And I dearly loved that I could walk from my front door to the desert and freely roam, with our dog Ginger, as and when I pleased. That is a freedom that I miss even now, fifty years later.I think, without a doubt, that Trona is a good place to set a scary story. But, it is still, on its own merits, also just a good place, too.