Lauren Groff on California and Fairy Tales

The author discusses “Annunciation,” her story from the latest issue of the magazine.

This week’s story, “Annunciation,” takes place primarily in Northern California. How important to the story is the setting?

Photograph by Agence Opale / Alamy 

I’ve lived in Northern California twice in my life, both times in an attempt to change myself radically. One summer in college, I dropped everything, flew out to San Francisco, lived in a youth hostel in Chinatown, and worked at the Macy’s in Union Square. I wanted to believe that I was considering not going back to college, but I was too much of a good student to drop out, and anyway found myself too chilly and lonely by the end of the summer to stay. The second time was after graduation, and my now husband and I lived in a converted pool house not unlike the one in the story, sharing the tiny space with a rescue Shar Pei that had such severe separation anxiety, he twice jumped through closed windows and we had to follow a trail of blood to get him back. I had so much energy then that I had to expend it by training for marathons up in the hills. I associate the place with a high emotional pitch and an extreme feeling of freedom, which is to say that the setting is the story to me.