posted on September 8, 2021 by Eliana West

My Hometown

I’ve always found history interesting; it was always my favorite subject in school when I was growing up. When I’m learning about the past, I always find myself asking. What if?

That was how the Heart of Colton series was born. I based my little town of Colton on my hometown of West, Mississippi. A town so small if you blink when you drive down the 51, you’ll miss it. Just like West, my fictional town of Colton is in the Mississippi Delta.

My grandpa always had big dreams for the small town that my family has claimed as a home for over six generations. In the Heart of Colton series, I get to imagine what if some of his dreams came true. Grandpa would talk all the time about how he believed young people would come back to West and help revitalize the community, and that’s exactly what happens in my series.

My sister has a sweet letter from our grandpa where he talks about West getting street signs for the first time.

He wrote the letter in 1981, and I often wonder what he’d think about the challenges a community like West faces today. Grandpa had a servant’s heart, and he fought hard for every small improvement in the town he loved so much.

“I was surprise when I went out on the street to see new street sign this is the 1st time we’ve has street names although I do not have a house # but my street is Branch St.

I voted in the town board of aldermans meeting to erect street signs our little town is improoving a little we have a few resolution that’s not yet passed that will give some action in generating revenue for development.”

I’ve transcribed these portions of the letter exactly how grandpa wrote them misspellings and without punctuation. I did this to honor grandpa, whose grandfather was an enslaved person. Grandpa taught himself to read and write. He has such beautiful penmanship and took a great deal of pride in each vote he made as an alderman to improve his town.

Although West is very special to me, it is not unique. Across America, there are small towns on the verge of becoming lost to memory. Infrastructure is an enormous challenge to these small communities. Upgrading water, electricity, and internet are just a few of the obstacles small towns face.

What happens to a small town when a new generation returns to restore a community that has been neglected for far too long? That question is one inspiration for my Heart of Colton series.

In the Way Forward, Dax Ellis returns to his hometown because he wants to do his part to help the community he took for granted so long ago. He’s surprised to discover he shares the same vision for the town with librarian Callie Colton. These are exactly the people I think my grandfather would have loved to see a return to a community like West.

Here is an excerpt from another letter from grandpa.

“also working with neighborhood Projects, you people, some Politics, Senior Citizens and Town Hall development. For the last four years I’ve served on the board of Alderman in our little town of less that 500 population Something few people would be believed could have happen in a Southern Town.”

 All of the books in the Heart of Colton series are inspired by my grandpa’s vision for West. I thought about the important role trades play in revitalization efforts. A small town like Colton needs carpenters, electricians, and plumbers to help restore the community. There are just a handful of trade schools left around the United States that focus on teaching restoration techniques and historic skills like brickmaking. I wanted to reimagine a program like this for Colton. One. That builds a sound foundation that can help the town for many years to come. The Way Beyond is about the strength of community and the power of love to create a place everyone can call home.

I am very grateful that with each book in the Heart of Colton series I get to make my grandfather’s wildest dreams come true and share them with all of you.

For a chance to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card and free download of The Way Beyond, I’d love to know, what is your favorite thing about your hometown?

Eliana West

Eliana West

Several years ago, Eliana West participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and hasn't put her pen down since.

With encouragement from the Pacific Northwest writing community, Eliana is pursuing her passion to write multi-cultural romance with diverse characters. In 2017 Eliana founded Writers for Diversity a community for writers interested in creating diverse characters and worlds.

Eliana lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and when she is not writing she can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington in her vintage Volkswagen camper van Bianca.

https://www.elianawest.com

Eliana West Contest

Eliana West is giving away a gift basket that includes signed copies of the first two books in the Heart of Colton series, THE WAY FORWARD and THE WAY BEYOND, an e-book of THE WAY BEYOND, a mug from the Catfish Cafe, a Homesick Mississippi candle, a Kingfisher bookmark, and a few other fun goodies!

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15 thoughts on “My Hometown”

  1. bn100 says:

    the local restaurants

    1. Eliana West says:

      Yum! What is your favorite food?

  2. Colleen C. says:

    the apple orchards… how many generations have run it

    1. Eliana West says:

      We live on what was an old apple orchard. Just about everyone in my neighborhood has an old apple tree in their yard. You’re right, there is so much history in these trees.

  3. Rachel Flesher (aka Raonaid Luckwell) says:

    Every year, on the second weekend of September, sternwheeler boats dock near the Lafayette Hotel. They block off a couple streets to have a festival. Food booths and other boots line the streets. They have live music from Friday to Sunday. Saturday they have fireworks..

    1. Eliana West says:

      That sounds lovely!

  4. Vicki says:

    I love this story and inspiration so much! My hometown and family doesn’t have this rich history and I have always been fascinated by stories others share like this, and by small towns in general. The thing I love best about my hometown is that it is relatively close to a big city, beautiful mountain ranges, and the ocean, depending on which direction you head. I was born and raised in the Pacific NW so I may be a tad biased, but I think it is one of the most beautiful places in the country.

    1. Eliana West says:

      I am a fellow PNW resident and I agree. Added bonus we live just 20 minutes away from all the wineries. My next series is set in a vineyard so any time I can do more “research” is a good thing-LOL!

      1. Vicki says:

        That is awesome – and maybe a tax write off? LOL Good thinking on your part with that inspiration too!

  5. Onara Garcia says:

    I grew up as an Army Brat and never knew what it was like to live in and grow up in a small town. Each time I am in small town though, I find myself wondering how it used to be and thinking, ‘if these walls could talk…’. Your book is obviously written from the heart and I think I’d enjoy it and look forward to it.

    1. Eliana West says:

      Thank you so much. I do the same thing! I’m always making up stories and imagining what kind of people lived there.

  6. Genie McFate says:

    The town of my heart was on the Cowlitz River. The grocery store had wooden floors that had dips in them from all the years of carts and shoppers.

    When that store burned down, the replacement lacked that character. But, it did have a big benefit — on a hot day, I could buy an ice cream sandwich and eat it in the massive beer refrigerator room :).

    1. Eliana West says:

      I love small-town grocery stores like that. In West, we had Mr. Boo’s Laundry, Pool Hall, and Grocery store. It’s where I would buy my banana and watermelon Now or Later’s!

  7. GB says:

    My favorite thing about my hometown is that we are 2 hours from the coast, 2 hours from the desert and about one and a half hours from the mountains. Just imagine all of the options of locations to visit and the fact that we are relatively laid back, food loving and quirky here.

    1. Eliana West says:

      That sounds wonderful and a lot like where I live.

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