Turning The Page On New Paltz

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Castle.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Castle.

Three Hudson Valley-based authors came together with Nina Shengold, the book editor for Chronogram, for a roundtable discussion about the settings of their novels.Jennifer Castle, author of “You Look Different in Real Life,” Owen King, author of “Double Feature” and Greg Olear, author of “Fathermucker,” each set their novels in New Paltz, either stating that the village was the setting directly or thinly veiling it to be a small town in the Hudson Valley.Shengold got the idea for a “New Pfalse” theme, playing with the idea that some of the authors referred to New Paltz under different names, when Unison Arts Center asked her to do the roundtable discussion.

During the discussion, the three authors talked about what it was like to use New Paltz as their stories’ backdrop, as well as what the town means to them personally. According to Shengold, “it was a lively, fun discussion.”

The three authors each have children and know each other socially, according to Olear.

“It was fun to hang out with them in a literary context rather than one that involves elementary school,” he said.

The authors each took their own direction when writing about the village. Olear wrote about New Paltz directly, “expansively and explicitly, just as Joyce does with Ulysses.” In his novel “Fathermucker,” he said, “readers familiar with New Paltz will readily and easily identify the places the protagonist goes.”

In contrast, Castle wrote about “Mountain Ridge,” a fictional town based upon New Paltz, Shengold said, allowing her “to be a bit looser with geography and distances.”

King used the same method as Castle, writing about “Hasbrouck, New York,” in his novel, which also allowed for looser definitions of space and names. Despite the slight changes, “it’s only a thin veil “anyone who knows New Paltz will easily recognize the state college, Huguenot graveyard and other tell-tale signs,” Shengold said.

Shengold said she hopes to read more fiction set locally, “set on the banks of the Wallkill” and “in the shadow of the Gunks.”

Castle said she is working on another Young Adult (YA) novel set in the Hudson Valley.

“It’s a place that feeds our souls as writers and general humans and where we want our kids to grow up,” Castle said. “We all [the authors] agreed that the way we looked at our lives unfolding here played a big part in how our recent books came together.”