Bringing Love Stories To Life in Small-Town Settings (Giveaway)
Brenda Novak and Robyn Carr are experts in the art of bringing love stories to life in small-town settings. Read on for insight into the creation of these quaint communities.
Where do you find inspiration when writing stories set in charming small towns?
Robyn: Top of the list—from reading, everything from novels to gardening or fly-fishing or hiking blogs written by people who are actually experiencing small towns and/or outdoors. I read tons of blogs and articles from farming to travel pieces. Then I really like to see certain areas for myself. I had already been to Northern California when I began writing Virgin River, but after visiting Humboldt County, talking to some of the locals (from the police chief and fire chief to waitresses and vegetable vendors by the side of the road) I went home and began rewriting. Being there awakened more detail and bigger ideas.
Brenda: This is always a tough question. I’m not sure where I get my ideas. I think I’ve simply demanded that my brain turn into a sifter—anything I read, watch, encounter or experience is capable of giving me that spark of an idea.
Are the communities in Sullivan’s Crossing and Silver Springs based on any real-life locations or personal experiences?
Robyn: It’s been a long time, but I’ve been to central Colorado and some of the small towns surrounding the fictional Sullivan’s Crossing. What impacted me at the time was the majestic glory of the Rockies—and the fact that the altitude made me light-headed! It’s got a bit of that old-West flavor to it, and the people were so welcoming.
Brenda: Silver Springs is very loosely based on the real small town of Ojai, California, which is a wonderful place. The idea for the first book in this series, Finding Our Forever, was inspired by the personal experience of a good friend who, after years and years of trying, just recently unlocked her closed adoption and located her birth mother. What she went through—and how it turned out—definitely made me want to explore that subject on my own and in a realm where I could bring all the characters to a wonderful happily-ever-after.
When creating a fictional town, what are your strategies for making it come to life? Is it the characters, the setting or both that make the community feel so real?
Robyn: I’ve learned that the setting, characters and plot have to work together in something of a triangle. The senses are used; the reader should be able to smell the fir trees and wildflower blossoms, hear the whistling through the trees just as the character feels it, smells it, tastes it, hears it. This happens while a character faces a challenge or problem or frustration or even fear. That way the reader is first transported to that place, then identifies with the character and finally assumes the character’s dilemma, which is the challenge or plot. That’s how you become fully involved. That’s how, as a reader, you believe.
Brenda: It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes a setting—or characters for that matter—come to life. I think that’s because it’s not just one thing. It’s wielding all the separate tools of writing so well that they come together to create a strong emotional impact. The setting needs to be as real as the characters.
If you could live in any fictional small town, what town would you choose and why?
Robyn: I love the small towns in California, primarily north of San Francisco. The people aren’t so much folksy as they are nontraditional. The towns are quaint and unpretentious and friendly, but you also find so many modern thinkers and people willing to try new things. Also, there are tons of big-city transplants—doctors, dentists, artists, educators—looking for a wholesome place to live and raise their families. Many of those Northern California towns are congenial and easygoing but suffused with culture. And it goes without saying—the landscape in that part of the world is magnificent.
Brenda: I would love to live in Whiskey Creek. The gold-country towns on which my longest series is based aren’t far from where I live now, and I really enjoy visiting them. They’re almost like stepping back in time by a century. But Silver Springs (and the Ojai Valley, where I’ve placed it) is a truly beautiful place, with better weather and a lot more greenery and flowering plants. So I’d probably have to choose Silver Springs (also, with its proximity to Los Angeles, it’s a very special place on earth).
Are you currently reading any novels set in small towns?
Robyn: The last one I read was The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart.
Brenda: Absolutely! I run Brenda Novak’s Online Book Group, and we’ve chosen Robyn Carr’s new release, Any Day Now, as our May read. Feel free to join the discussion on Thursday, May 18, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific time (8:00 p.m. Eastern time). I’ll be interviewing Robyn live. You can find the link to join and more details here: brendanovak.com/book-group.
Enter for the chance to win a Small-Town Prize Pack, featuring stories from Brenda and Robyn, plus exclusive author swag. Details here: experiences.wyng.com/campaign/?experience=58f5054023847f466be643e2.