Small Town Girl

December 2, 2008

As my book, Love Finds You in Romeo, Colorado, gets ready for release in December, I’ve been reminded of why this series so appealed to me in the first place. I grew up in Ozark, Arkansas, a town of about 3500 people. After college, some extensive travelling, and living in three other places, I moved back here with my husband in 1999. My family lives here, and this is where we wanted to raise our family.

My best friend is the director of the Chamber of Commerce. I write for the town newspaper. Many of my old teachers still teach in the schools, and many of my old friends go to church here and own businesses here. When the word got out about Love Finds You in Romeo, I was asked to speak at the local school as well as the Chamber of Commerce. Four businesses scheduled book signings, and two more are scheduled in the county’s libraries. I’m told that even the town grocery store plans to carry copies for sale. Apparently they’re setting up a little stand beside the produce.

I wrote an essay once about how “it takes a village” to write a book, referring to the wonderful support system I have in my family. Now that it’s written and printed, however, I’m finding out how helpful one’s village—or the extended family that is a small town—can be in promoting a book. Perhaps what helps most of all, however, is how they’ve touched the heart of this small-town author.


Wherefore art thou, Romeo?

July 25, 2008

My book is set in the small town of Romeo, which is not far from the southern border of Colorado. It lies right in the heart of the beautiful San Luis Valley. I don’t have any pictures, but I hope those thousands of words I wrote will do justice to a setting and culture that captivated me as I worked on the story.

I have spent time in Santa Fe, Taos, and northern New Mexico, as well as a great many parts of Colorado. But because I was unable to visit Romeo itself, I am extra-thankful to Aaron Abeyta, a professor and writer who lives near there and provided me with loads of information. He feels about the San Luis Valley like I do about the Arkansas River Valley—it is home sweet home.
Most people who pick up this novel will probably assume, as I did, that the name of the town is related to Shakespeare’s most famous romantic tragedy. I’d like to tell you whether or not that’s correct, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

It Takes a Village

May 28, 2008

           For me, writing this book has been a balancing act.  On the one hand it is a dynamic, creative process that flows through my life like a river.  Ideas come to me in the shower, while I’m driving my car, cooking supper, doing dishes, playing with my kids, or on a walk.  Sometimes I dash to the computer and type them in if I’m close to the house.  Other times I’m scribbling on whatever I can find—a grocery receipt, a Kleenex, the palm of my hand.  I understand why ancient Greeks included the concept of Muses in their mythology, because I am assailed—or blessed—quite often by wild creative energy that seems to have a will of its own.  I have come to understand this as a gift from God, and my job as a writer to bend myself to His will as He provides the ideas as well as the power to express them.

            On the other hand is a much less mystical side of writing.  Right-brained folks like me don’t like this side near as much.  It involves the practical logistics of getting a story told in an acceptable way in a certain amount of time.  In terms of  this book, Love Finds You in Romeo, Colorado, that means eighty-thousand words in four months, give or take a few words, while maintaining a family of five, a few other part-time jobs, and some semblance of personal sanity.  For me, that takes an incredible amount of discipline, and support from my “tribe,” or extended family.

            When I got this contract, after a brief celebration, my sister-in-law set me down at her dining room table.  She made a chart of how many weeks it was till the deadline and how many pages I had to write each week in order to reach it (Did I mention she’s a left-brainer?).  Then she wrote the names of herself, my mother, and my husband on the calendar, alternating every other day for childcare beginning that week and lasting till the deadline (they had all already committed to this arrangement in the event my proposal was selected).  With their help, I write about three days a week, for eight to ten hours a day.  If I don’t get the amount of pages I need, I make it up at night when my kids are in bed.

            In addition to this, I have three readers who read every word I write and give me feedback on my days “off.”  The list of people who have helped me with setting, plot, characters–and details I’d never be able to assemble on my own in this amount of time–is already long, and keeps growing.  By the time this is over, I’m sure I’ll have enough names on it to populate a small town.  I’m learning if you’re a mother of little children on a limited budget—and probably even if you’re not–it takes a village to write a book.

Postcard From Heaven

May 11, 2008

            I am the only writer out of the first four in the series who has never before published a novel.  This is a great honor, as well as a source of extreme terror, depending on the day.

            One day early in the manuscript I was researching the setting around Romeo, Colorado.  I wanted my female protagonist to be an English professor, and so I was looking for the nearest college in the area so I could give her a place to teach.  Being an English teacher myself, I was also looking for a possible victim in academia who might collaborate with me about the setting.

            Mind you, it was a day when I was plagued with the question of whether or not I have what it takes to be a writer of novels.  My prayers went something like this:  Lord, I believe You have given me this opportunity, and I trust You know what You are doing.  Please help me tell this story.

I found a place called Adams State College that would be an easy commute from Romeo for my heroine.  I even found a friend in the English Department there who lives near Romeo and writes about the area—a virtual treasure chest of cool information!  But, as if all of that weren’t enough, I believe I got a postcard of encouragement, sent direct to me from heaven.

            If you go to the website for Adams State College, there’s a beautiful set of photos of the campus and surrounding mountains. Then there’s the school’s official slogan in bright, bold letters.  This is no lie; you can check it for yourself.  The slogan reads, Adams State College: Great Stories Begin Here.