Sunday, May 5, 2013

This is the House that Jack Built . . . And Norah's Other Haunts

This past week, I got the unexpected chance to fly back to Boston for a few days.  I was taking care of some pretty spectacular kids, who actually happen to live in the house I based Uncle Jack and Norah's house in Cobbogoth on.  So, while I was back there--I haven't been in Belmont since before Cobbogoth was published--I decided to take a few pictures of places in Book 1 that Norah visits.

Now, first off, everything that takes place in Belmont during Book 1 really exists.  I spent two summers back there, one when I was sixteen and a second when I was eighteen.  The place really got into my blood, and that's probably why it became my natural choice when I was coming up with a city to set Cobbogoth in.  Up to that point in my life, Boston was the only city I'd ever spent enough time in to believably be able to write about it.

So, without further ado, let me take you on a visual tour of Belmont and the other real places Norah visits in Book 1. I'm very excited to share them with you!

I suppose the best place to start, would be at the beginning.  So, here we go.  This first pic is of the bridge Norah passes under onto Belmont Center when she first wakes up at the beginning of the book: 

 These next two pictures are of Belmont Center.  Fun Fact: I spent a lot of time wandering through the shops on this Center during the two summers I spent here as a teen.  It changes every time I visit, but I still feel the same feelings when I walk up and down this street.  It was easy to visualize Norah here while I was writing Cobbogoth.

 This is the but station where Norah gets dropped off, and James picks her up.  Oh look!  There's even a silver car parked across the street, just like James' would've been.

Fun fact:  The reason James' car is sliver is because my husband's car was silver when I first started crushing on him. ;-)

 And here is the Belmont Fire Station, where James works.   
Fun Fact: When I first started writing Cobbogoth, this fire station wasn't built yet.  There actually was just an old utility building here, and the Fire Station was more in the middle of Belmont Center, so I had to change a few things when they built this one in order to make my book accurate.

 This is Pleasant Street, the street Norah and James would've turned onto after leaving Belmont Center. 
  Fun Fact: Pleasant Street is part of the Historical District in Belmont.  There are some pretty amazing houses along the way.
From Pleasant Street, James and Norah would've turned onto Stella Road, pictured below.

Here's Barbara RD.  Norah and James live at the end of this street.

This is a shot of Barbara RD from the other end.  To the left is where we just came from, and to the right is the winding drive that leads up to Norah and Jack's house.  Straight ahead is James' house.

And this is the house that Jack built:  :-)

This is the view Norah would've seen when she first caught sight of it as James drove her home.   

Fun Fact:  This is the house my husband grew up in.  I have a lot of great memories in this house starting from clear back in 1999.  Every time I drive toward this house when I first visit, I feel a wave of jumbled feelings rush over me, just like Norah does when she sees it again for the first time.

 Here is the mailbox, where Detective Narson would've found signs of a struggle after Uncle Jack's murder.  This was where Norah should've found her graduation present.

 Here is the front porch.  Imagine Norah and James approaching it cautiously, as the drive is lined with police cars, an ambulance, and a fire engine.

 This is the swing Nina, Norah's housekeeper would've been sitting on and crying when they first arrive.  This door would've been smashed in by a rabid Dogril.  ;-) 

This is a better shot of James' house. It's just down the hill from Norah's and next door.  I've never been inside it, but from the exterior design I imagine it looks the way I picture the inside of James' house looking.  There's even that little balcony over the garage where Norah could've peeked down from that top window and heard Lylend and James talking.  She wouldn't have been able to see them because that balcony is so narrow--her angle would've been too steep.  

 Unfortunately I wasn't able to get down to Harvard Square during this visit, and chronologically, that's where Norah would've gone from here, so here are a few pics I found online.

I don't have any pictures of the Mirage--Samir's shop--because I made it up.  But that steeple in the background could very well be the Pre-Revolution church beside it.   

Fun Fact:  Those secret passages like Samir's book case, that lead down into Boston's sewers were really built by the Free Masons, and some of them still really do exist. 

Fun Fact: I used to work in that greenish gray building to the left in the photo below.  It was an Abercrombie and Fitch at the time.  Not sure what it is now. 

Back to Belmont.

Here is the Belmont Police Station.  I know, it looks too pretty for a police station, but trust me, it looks like a jail inside.  Norah would've been held in a cell inside, interrogated by Narson in an interrogation room, and busted out by Lylend via a hoption hole.

 And this is the alley where she would've ended up.  These alleys are really small, and so Lylend, being as big as he is would've taken up most of the space.  At night this particular alley is super dark and very creepy.

Fun Fact:  When I was a girl walking on Belmont Center at night, I would run past these alleys without looking down them, because they freaked me out so much.  ;-)

 After Lylend busts Norah out of jail, he leads her up to Pleasant Street again, and this is where she would've run into Leila and Si, Cifer's Dogrils.  This rock wall is the wall she jumps right after she sees the Dogrils morph.
 She then booked it up this hill.  As you can see, there are a lot of tangled vines and underbrush to get caught on, as well as thickets to hide in.  This hill is also pretty steep.

This is the hill Lylend takes Norah to after she's been attacked by the Dogrils.  This is where he would've opened his rodaor and taken her inside to heal her leg.

The picture below is the room where Leila nearly burns Norah to death, and where Norah first learns that James is Lylend's Tyro and a Cobbogothian.

Fun Fact:  When my husband used to live on Barbara Rd there was a grand piano in the right-hand corner that I used to love playing when I visited.  I don't know if its Norah or Uncle Jack who plays the piano, but this room always seems a bit empty to me without it, which is why it's present in Book 1 for Norah to hide under after Leila starts to set the room on fire. 

Here are a few pictures of the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology on Harvard University Campus.  This is where Norah goes to meet Anderton, and where she would've seen Uncle Jack's Dogril exhibit.

Below is a black and white interior shot.  Uncle Jack's exhibit would've been straight ahead through that doorway and off to the right.

After meeting Anderton, Norah would've been hijacked by the Dogrils and flown to Iceland.

I know what you're thinking; Iceland is one of the more glorious countries in the world.  Unfortunately Norah wouldn't have seen any of Iceland's lovely landscape in book 1.

This is what the Caves of Aegissida entrances are supposed to look like.  

In the book, I describe the caves as lined up like the picture below.  Since I've never been to Iceland and seen the Caves of Aegissida, I have no idea what they really look like or how their set up. 

Here is Mount Hekla.  The caves lead Norah and the Dogrils to Old Cobbogoth, which is built beneath this volcano.  Hekla is located just outside of Hella Iceland as well.  

Fun Fact:  The Vikings used to think Mount Hekla was the Gateway to Hell.  

Here's a pretty good idea what the labyrinth caves would've looked like once Norah and the Dogrils got inside the Caves of Aegissida. 

At the end of the labrynth caves, Norah would've come across something like the picture below, only the crystals from Cobbogoth would be much bigger that these, and well, the spiral city of Old Cobbogoth would be nestled in the center of them.

Fun fact:  I came across an article in National Geographic about the discovery of this cave down in Mexico.  I'd written about five drafts of Cobbogoth by that time, but this article and the pictures with it fascinated me so much that I completely re-wrote my book again just to incorporate them into the story line.  I'm so glad I did.

Finally, when Norah's hiding in the alley with Lylend after he busts her out of jail, she mentions an ice cream parlor she and James used to visit toward the end of Gram's life, because ice cream was the only thing they could get her to eat.  This is Rancatore's--the very same parlor they visited.

And that's it folks.  You have officially seen Norah's old haunts through the author's eyes.  If only I could take a picture for you of all the imaginary places she and I have visited together.  How well do these real places match up to the ones you visualized in your mind?

I hope you've enjoyed this post; I had a great time putting it together for you.  Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Thank you for the tour!
    You have been nominated for the Reader Appreciation Award.

  2. Amazing tour, love that city, shops, restaurants, homes.

    Gildan G200B