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:
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!