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Talking Location With author Kristen Lepionka – Columbus , Ohio

3rd May 2018

#TalkingLocationWith…. Kristen Lepionka, author of What You Want To See, who talks about Columbus, Ohio, the setting for her crime thriller.

I happen to live in the city I write about, so every day is living, breathing research. When I set out to capture Columbus, Ohio, as the setting for my mystery series I wanted to make sure I painted a realistic portrait of the place. People have a misconception that because Columbus falls in “America’s Heartland”—i.e. the Midwest—that it’s a kind, gentle, cornfed utopia of wholesome values. “People are so nice in the Midwest,” is something I hear a lot. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that a lot of us aren’t nice. But people are people, here and everywhere else, and you’ll find just as many nice ones as nasty. And that’s why it’s such a good setting for a mystery, to be honest.

Kristen Lepionka

Columbus is the fifteenth-largest city in the U.S. (keep in mind that we have well over 100 cities with populations greater than 500k), so our landscape is a concrete jungle bordered on all sides by farmland. That makes for interesting frictions between groups of people, which is where the mystery genre sparks. The downtown area is going through a period of revitalization, too, meaning that we have abandoned buildings sharing street corners with brand-new high-rise condominiums. You can stop by the green space at the heart of the city—the Columbus Commons—and if the weather is nice like it is during What You Want to See, you can lounge on the grass, ride a carousel, or take in a concert at the pavilion. Underneath this idyllic park, you’ll find a certain parking garage that serves as the setting for a key scene in the book. It’s pure fiction, I assure you, but I spent a few evenings wandering around here and taking pictures—something the security guards were very curious about. The Southern Theater, near the corner of High and Main, is a gloriously restored old performance space where you can listen to our chamber orchestra and then grab dinner around the corner at Dirty Frank’s Hot Dog Palace, which serves craft beer and hot dogs ranging from the expected (i.e. ketchup and mustard) to the downright wild (mango chutney or kimchi and mayo, anyone?)

Kristen Lepionka

The protagonist of my series, Roxane Weary, lives in a neighborhood on the eastern edge of downtown: Olde Towne East. The streets there are lined with Victorian-era mansions (think massive Queen Annes with turrets and solariums) as well as modest apartment housing. The revitalization is slowly creeping eastward, adding more luxury-modern buildings and an emerging bar scene. Roxane’s local, the Olde Towne Tavern, is a delightful mix of old and new—pressed tin ceilings and a contemporary menu—and the perfect place for a drink at the end of a long day of investigating (er, sight-seeing).

If you venture further to the east, you’ll find Bexley: technically a separate municipality, but bordering Columbus proper on three sides. Both Roxane and I like to frequent The Drexel, a beloved art-deco style movie theater dating back to the 1930s, as well as Gramercy Books, a new addition to the city in recent years but an instant classic given its rolling bookshelves and attached bakery. Continuing east, you can check out Wing’s, a Chinese restaurant with a bar that offers the biggest Scotch list I’ve ever seen outside of Scotland.

To get a taste of the non-concrete jungle element of Columbus living, head far beyond the outerbelt to the west for a glimpse of the corn statues (no, you aren’t missing anything—we don’t understand it either) or to the Hocking Valley region for lush forests, hiking, and caves carved by glaciers millennia ago.

Having lived here for two-thirds of my life, I might be biased when I say Columbus is a great city to explore—but if you’re looking for a literary adventure slightly off the beaten tourism path, I do hope you’ll let Roxane Weary be your guide.

Thank you so much to Kristen for sharing her Columbus with us! You can follow her on Twitter and via her website, and of course buy her book through the TripFiction database

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  1. User: Barbara Khan

    Posted on: 03/05/2018 at 2:00 pm

    I am dying to read this series!! I am from Ohio and love to read books with settings I know. Thanks for reminding me book one is on my TBR and now I have another to add.