Setting plays a big part in my writing. I'm currently working on the sequel to The Thin House, which takes places in a fictional version of my mom's hometown, where I spent a lot of time as a kid. I'm excited to introduce the world to Opossum Trot Mississippi, but today I want to talk about the setting of my recent book. The Thin House is set in Abita Springs Louisiana. Abita is a real place, and my one regret about the book is not taking more time to discuss it. Like many of my favorite places, Abita is small, rural, town with a giant personality.
Abita Springs was first settled by Louisiana pioneers in the 1800's, but was first discovered by the Choctaw Indians who were drawn to the area by it's mineral springs and Artesian wells. They called the place "ibetap" which means fountain. There is a legend that one of sons of the first settlers married a Choctaw princess named Abita. The couple supposedly moved to nearby New Orleans where the princess fell gravely ill, and wasn't responding to any treatments. The legend states that by returning and bathing in the healing mineral waters of "ibetap" she was miraculously healed.
Another thing that's still there today is the water. There is a fountain near the center of town where locals and visitors call fill up jugs of the water to take with them. I can't speak to the validity of it's healing nature, but there is a noticeable freshness that is very nice. My wife and I top off our water bottles whenever we pass through.
Today the town boasts a handful of very pleasant restaurants, The Abita Brewery, and fascinating places like the Abita Mystery House, a museum for folk art, old arcade games, odd collections, and general weirdness. Side note when my wife and I first visited the place we found this really strange looking gray cat that led us through the entire exhibit, and i'm still not sure if it was staged somehow or if we almost stumbled into Narnia. I highly recommend stopping in and exploring if you have the chance. Totally worth the $4 admission.
Abita has an almost otherworldly quirkiness that is palpable from the moment you first drive into town beneath a hollow of massive oaks, with hanging curtains of Spanish moss. There are strings of Christmas lights in the trees that give the community an even more magical vibe at night. It's truly a special place. I knew when I first started building The Thin House that it needed to be nestled away in the rural edge of Abita Springs. I challenge anyone who read the book to take a visit and see if you can't feel some of the eccentric warmth that I tried my best to capture in The Thin House. There's a reason my wife and I now live just a couple miles away.