Before I wrote the first word of this novel in May of 2010, I had no idea where to start. Though the story now begins with a prologue, the first draft started with Chapter 1. My ideal reader suggested an unforgettable memory and the beginning was born.
Patrick's awakening and massive hangover in Chapter 1 were based on one I had as a college student after a night of drinking at Nick's Bar on Tulane Ave. in New Orleans. Sadly, the bar closed in 2005, thanks to Hurricane Katrina, but it's due to re-open this year. And yes, I danced on the bar that night as Patrick did at Roscoe's.
But that's not why I'm writing this post. Though I will get into certain specifics of The Curse and Milneburg State University, there are no spoilers here. However, there are pictures.
As stated on my home page, with a few exceptions, I based the fictional Milneburg State University on the University of New Orleans from the 1980's. I originally wanted to use UNO, but I needed the university in the story to celebrate its centennial and UNO opened in 1958. As a result, Milneburg State University was born.
In addition to The Curse and Second Chance, Milneburg State is also the setting in my short story, The Immortals in The Acts of 1. In that story, a drama professor shows his class a newly restored silent movie from 1912 that was once considered lost. There is something odd about the movie. The star in it looks exactly like one of the students in the class.
Milneburg State is a little larger than UNO and there are some differences. For example, unlike UNO, Milneburg State has a football team and a stadium. In The Curse and Second Chance, I never specify where on campus the stadium is. Like UNO, the baseball and softball stadiums are located a few blocks off campus, but they are featured in Second Chance.
Though the university's history is covered in the story, here is the public domain picture that inspired the description of Milneburg State when it opened in 1910.
A few years ago, I went to the University of New Orleans to take a few pictures relative to what is in The Curse. The first picture is of Patrick and Grant's dorm. This is where my daughter stayed when she was a student at UNO. My daughter stayed in the second story one by the stairs, which is Patrick and Grant's apartment in the story. When I was a student at UNO, there were no buildings here. It was one big parking lot.
When a hung over Patrick leaves his second story dorm apartment, thinking he's late for a test, he goes down the stairs. Unlike in the picture, the parking lot in the story is nothing but grass. The pool in the story is located where the tree is on the right edge of the picture.
But what about The Eyesore? That, too, is based on a piece of art on campus, but it has since been moved from its original location. The original plaque did have 1984 on it and nothing else, but there is now one that identifies the artist. This is what inspired The Eyesore.
If you read the description in The Curse, it doesn't look like The Eyesore. Again, it inspired the description. The original location of the real work was between the old Business Building and the Liberal Arts Building, but closer to the Business Building. Now there is a memorial of the effects of Hurricane Katrina in its place. The trees planted there are bent from the high winds, but they live on. The administration moved the original artwork outside the Fine Arts Building on the north end of campus.
In the story, Dimitri Kozerski created The Eye, also known as The Eyesore. Here is the artist for this work.
The original 1984 only plaque is long gone, but I'm glad this one is here. Before taking this picture, I had no idea who created the work.
In the climax of the story, one of the main characters, a campus police officer nicknamed Popeye, pulls his gun and goes into the parking lot toward the Devil's Lair in pursuit of a bad guy. The building toward the back was once the Sandbar, which is the inspiration for and location of the Devil's Lair. I spent quite a few Friday and Saturday nights at the Sandbar. Good times.
By this time, my camera batteries died and the replacement batteries were in no better shape. There is more to say about Milneburg State University, but that could be the subject of another post, maybe after Second Chance is published. I'll make it a point to take a few more pictures, too.
Now you have a basic idea of what Milneburg State University looks like. When reading my stories set there, feel free to come back to this post for a visual reference.