I loved reading Vicky Skinner’s debut last year (read my review of How to Breathe Underwater) so I have been excited for We Are the Ghosts! To celebrate its release, I’ve collaborated with Vicky to create a map of the road trip featured in the book. I hope you enjoy the map and Vicky’s research for each spot!
The Road Map of We Are the Ghosts
In We Are the Ghosts, our main character, Ellie, receives a map from a mysterious sender and decides to hit the road with a group of her friends to discover who sent it. Starting in Texas, they drive all the way to Michigan, and every stop has a life of its own, its own story, its own meaning, its own symbolism. So I wanted to talk a little bit about every stop and the research I did for them.
Eaton, TX-Eaton is where the story begins. Based on a real town in Texas that goes by a different name, Eaton is a small town where Ellie and her brother, Luke, have grown up. Eaton is a college town, built around Tate University, with one high school and a population of twenty thousand people. While charming to outsiders, the “lifers” of Eaton, like Ellie and Luke, are often bitter about living in their one-horse town. Eaton is the only fictional town in We Are the Ghosts.
New Orleans, LA- Jackson Square, Bourbon Street, you know the places. New Orleans was one of the most fun places to write about in Ghosts. New Orleans is rich with history and culture and, honestly, things to do. For this particular location, I spent a lot of time on Google Maps’ 360 view, traveling down every street I could to decide where these characters were going to end up, and it honestly made me want to go to New Orleans so bad!
St. Louis, MO- St. Louis, or the Gateway Arch to be more specific, is the only place in the book, besides the real life town that Eaton is based on, that I’ve actually been to. I visited the Arch when I was kid and then, while I was editing Ghosts, my editor visited the Arch and actually went to the top, and I got to use her experience for research! In the book, Ellie is deathly afraid of heights and doesn’t want to go to the top of the Arch, and that’s me. No way am I going up in a tiny elevator and then looking down at all the airbetween me and the ground.
Indianapolis, IN– I haven’t actually been to Indianapolis, but I havebeen to Indiana. This part of the trip is a little tricky because it’s not an official part of the road trip. Ellie’s friend, Cade, has family in Indianapolis, so they decide to drop in for a visit. I spent a lot of time researching things to do in Indianapolis, as I felt like there wasn’t very much, but then I discovered the catacombs! There are catacombs right under Indianapolis! Cool, right?
Ann Arbor/Dexter, MI- I did very little research on Ann Arbor as our group only spends a few hours there, but getting to find a place like Dexter, the little town just outside of Ann Arbor where Luke dies, was kind of a blessing. I took Google Maps all through town to find just the right place that a car might slide into the Huron River (morbid, I know), and sometimes it feels like I was really there. I think there’s a lot to be said about the commonalities between Dexter and Eaton.
Writing a road trip is so much more challenging than I ever could have imagined. All the tiny details, including when they would have to stop for gas, how long it takes to go from place to place, including bathroom breaks and meal breaks, it’s all stuff that doesn’t occur to someone until a copy editor is asking questions about which highway goes through which town. But, in the end, I think it was really rewarding, and maybe I’ll do it again someday.
About the Book