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  • Indiana is cold in February. A sort of dry cold cold. It actually sort of burns. We travelled out to Indiana to visit the actual town upon which our fictionalised town, Time, is based. Time is about three hours from Indianapolis, three hours from Chicago; a little dot in a big empty Republican flatness. In a way it wasn’t so geographically dissimilar to East Anglia with its big open skies and its distinct absence of anything remotely resembling a hill. But there was a lot more of it, with little towns such as our adopted Time dropped seemingly sporadiacally amongst the tundra. A lot of people, including our brave local taxi driver, Ralph, who trekked out with us and acted as our bemused, slightly scary guide and local security officer (‘yeah, I keep snakes, lots of ‘em’; ‘yeah I got a gun, lots of ‘em’; ‘yeah I taught my daughter to handle a gun when she was 5’; ‘yeah don’t get busted for drugs in Indiana, they’ll throw away the key’; ‘don’t worry people tend to point before they shoot’), have asked: How did we find the town? ‘Was it random?’ ‘Do you have family there?’ ‘Are you writing a book?’ ‘Did you just drop a pin on the map?’ All basically polite ways of saying ‘what on earth are you doing here? Even we don’t go here, and we live here.’

    The answer is that it has been a mixture of economics, logic and intuition. We knew the sort of size community we were interested in – one that was really small – and it needed to be far enough away from anywhere else that you really couldn’t leave easily, especially if you were a child. It also needed to have a particular economic set-up: now basically farming but with an historic dependence on the railway for its existence. And it needed to be in the Mid-West, with Indiana for preference (determined to some extent by accent). Those factors limited the selection pool, and then Tamsin Joanna Kennard, who made the final choice, realised that actual Time really did have a massive old tree that had served as an historic (now non-existent) focal point. At that point, intuition takes over (the intuition of luck) and so a town ripe for fictionalisation becomes emergent.

    Having spent some time there, I am still reflecting on what I learned. Certainly it really is isolated, but it’s a particular cultural mindset more than anything: a commitment to really traditional American values of individualism, somehow tied to the land, and reified in the Constitution. Being an American in Time is very dependent on owning a bit of Time, and nobody else has rights over you on that land. This also correlates with the both big and small ‘c’ conservatism that people seemed to use to orientate themselves. And then of course there was the minutiae of life, the specifics of which are so important for Real Circumstance’s work: the types of building; the cars, what people actually drink and eat; how much they earn; how far they have to travel to go to school; the racial demographic; what colour the sky is; how you hunt; what happens if you shoot somebody on your land; how far away the doctor is; what it might mean to be a child there, under a tree at the end of Time; the particular sort of cold. Details.
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