Hidden FAQ: Molly’s House

I love getting reader questions about Hidden, and Molly’s house and neighborhood are one of the aspects of the story that has garnered some curiosity. Most recently, one of my lovely readers (Hi, K!) asked if there was a particular house and neighborhood I had in mind when writing Molly’s house. The answer to that is YES. Also, one UK reviewer questioned whether I was writing a dystopian future in Hidden, because the mentions of empty neighborhoods and slow/non-existent police response seem very, very unbelievable.

To which I say…not if you’re from here. 🙂

So, a couple of things inspired Molly’s house in the story. I used my grandma’s old neighborhood in Detroit as the general inspiration for Molly’s neighborhood. I will say, though, that my grandma’s old area isn’t quite as empty as Molly’s. There is still a house here and there, though many of them stand empty. Here’s a screenshot of Google Street View:

linnhurst and queen 2


See that little blue house? My grandma’s old house used to be right next door to it, to the left. It’s long gone now, probably since sometime in the 90s. That blue house, when my grandma lived next door, was owned by a little old lady named Esther. She used to grow green beans on the chainlink fence between the houses, and I very vividly remember sneaking a few of them every once in a while.

For anyone interested in checking things out via street view, the closest Google Maps-featured thing to my grandma’s house was the St. Jude Parish in Detroit. If you search that, it’s on Seven Mile. Her house was off of Seven Mile and Hayes. As I said: the neighborhood isn’t quite as empty as what I depicted in the story, but it’s close. Some blocks are more inhabited than others. Some neighborhoods in Detroit are far emptier, but since I spent a good part of my childhood in this particular area, this is what I chose to use as my model.

As far as the house itself, and the general feeling of desolation I’m trying to depict with Molly’s house, this photo from Detroit photographer James Griffioen says it all:



That house is in the exact style as my grandma’s old house, and the area around it pretty much depicts what Molly’s neighborhood looks like in my mind. She mows and maintains a small part of it, but in general, this is it. Molly’s house is in good shape, because of the work she’s put into it, but, yeah. Oh, and if you’re curious about how common this is, take a look at this WebUrbanist post showing more of Griffioen’s “feral” Detroit houses.

So, that’s Molly’s house and neighborhood, and the real-world places that inspired them. It’s kind of funny when I think about it, how much of me, personally, is in this story. Not so much in Molly herself, but in the places I’ve chosen to set certain things. Though Molly and I do both have one thing in common: we both worked really, really boring office jobs at Wayne State University for a while. 😉

Thanks for the question, K!


6 thoughts on “Hidden FAQ: Molly’s House

  1. Sarah says:

    It’s so cool to see what you actually have in mind when you write as we readers don’t often get such a visual peek into the authors mind. I have to say though that you describe things incredibly well as that is not far off where I was in my mind with Molly’s house. It’s often difficult being British to visualise everything in urban fantasy novels as they are mostly American and films/TV are not necessarily an accurate view of the world! I’ve never been to Detroit but I have sniffed it over the water as I have friends in Sarnia and we spent a lot of time in Ontario before children came along and funds ran out!

    Despite the fantasy of your books I do feel one of the most appealing factors about your books (and there are many) is that both characters and settings are totally believable. I love the feel of those photos, thanks.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks, Sarah! I’m so glad you found it interesting! I know as a reader I’m usually curious about this kind of thing as well, so I want to try to share this kind of thing when there’s interest in it. It’s a relief to hear that my descriptions worked for you. It’s one thing to know what I’m seeing when I write it; I always hope I’m getting things across the right way. 🙂

  2. Kellie says:

    So sad to see those beautiful old houses gone feral. Many similar houses here, mostly Victorian-style, have been torn down or used for low-rent apartments. We even lived in a couple when we were first married, and they were in terrible shape. Fortunately in the past few years there has been a push to revitalize the King William District in San Antonio. I hope the same is happening in Detroit. 🙂

    • Colleen says:

      Hi Kellie! It is sad. It was heartbreaking when my husband and I drove down that street and I realized my grandma’s house was gone. There are efforts to save these houses in some areas, but there are so many vacant properties, and Detroit has had such a large loss of population, that many of these houses don’t stand a chance. Blight is a big problem, and the city and non-profits have been working at actually razing these houses, because they’re dangerous in some cases in addition to being eyesores. Very sad.

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