Author Bridget Foley on Her Theory That Colorado Is an Epicenter of Dreams
Is it any coincidence that Bridget Foley's childhood home of Littleton provides the setting for Hugo & Rose, her debut novel of dreams, obsession and suburban ennui? Childhood homes tend to exert a powerful influence on the subconscious, and the subconscious is a powerful force in Hugo & Rose, which follows a suburban housewife in both real life and in her reoccurring dreams, in which she and a boy-man named Hugo battle monsters and perform exploits. When she runs into Hugo in the real world, things go awry.
Foley returns to the homeland Tuesday, when she'll appear at the Tattered Cover Aspen Grove (in Littleton, of course), to read from the novel and sign copies. We caught up with her in advance to chat about screenwriting, mountains and, obviously, dreams.
Westword: You grew up around Denver. Welcome back!
Bridget Foley: I grew up in Littleton, which, I have to say, it was so nice. My parents still live there, and I still have family all around Denver. I love it. I think people in Colorado have a certain sunshine about them – which is funny, because I’ve written a really dark book.
Yeah, tell us about the book.
So the book is about a woman named Rose who has three young children and lives in a suburb of Denver, and she's not really anyone special, except she has these extraordinary recurring dreams stemming from a childhood accident, in which she lives and grows up on an island with a little boy, and they fight monsters, like these huge B-movie monsters. And her life is mundane. So one days she’s at a soccer tournament in a rural town, and it gets rained out, and she goes to the McDonald's, and of course the McDonald's is packed with all these parents and kids from the soccer tournament, so she ends up pulling into the drive-thru of this small-town Orange Julius ripoff, and she looks up in the window and there's Hugo, the man she's been dreaming of her whole life. Except it's him fifty pounds heavier and balding; she, of course, doesn't look the same, either. So basically she starts stalking him, and it becomes a tale of obsession.
That's obviously kind of a weird concept. How'd you come up with it?
The idea came from...I had a very vivid dream. So when I was a screenwriter, I would decide what I wanted to talk about, and then kind of work backward to find a story I could tell about it. In the book, I kind of worked the opposite way. I had this dream about a man who seemed really familiar, and we had built a whole life together, and then I woke up and had breakfast with my husband and son. But I couldn’t get this man out of my head. At the time, I was hacking as a screenwriter – meaning I was working but not making any money – and I was trying to figure out a way that I could make it a screenplay, but I couldn’t figure a way to make it happen without a big feel-good Hollywood ending, and I didn't want to do that. It took me a couple of years, but I finally figured if I made it a book it could have a more ambiguous ending.
How was the process of writing a novel versus writing a screenplay?
It’s a lot slower. For me it's because I’m an outliner – that’s my process, So because I learned to tell stories through film, I created an outline similar to what you would do for a screenplay. Screenplays are like recipes for movies: They’re salable structures for something bigger. When you’re writing a novel, it's all you. You can talk about what the air feels like, or create the internal monologues that can mostly only be implied in good films. Or I can make lists — I love making lists. But ultimately, story is story in film and books, and I’m pushing the same pleasure buttons. When something sings, it doesn’t matter if it’s a movie or a book.
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The book is set in a suburb of Denver sort of modeled on Littleton. Why did you decide to set it there?
I chose Colorado because I grew up there, but also because the book is about dreams, and it posits a gentle theory about the nature and purpose of dreams. I always envisioned the Rockies as being sort of the spine of the Western Hemisphere, so that, in the middle of the night, when it’s 2 a.m. in Colorado and the East Coast hasn’t woken up yet and the West Coast is just going to sleep, in the center of the nation, sleeping minds might be dreaming and reaching out. It might sound silly, but I imagined Colorado as like an epicenter of dreamers, so that’s why I picked it. Also because the dream setting is very tropical and lush, and Colorado has a more dry beauty – so to set the characters in that really dry, bright light in their real lives. There is a quality to the light in Colorado, a beauty that I’ve always responded to.
Also, one thing I think people in Colorado take for granted is the mountains – that you always know where you are. The mountains are always west in the orienteering sense of the word, but you also have these geological miracles giving you perspective on the size of your life. It gives you perspective, and that’s a really special thing.
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