I have nothing against big cities. My youngest lives in Seattle, two blocks from the Space Needle. I fall more in love with the city each time I visit, but when it comes to where to set my stories, small-town wins every time. Although I admit, sitting near the water’s edge at Lake Union and watching the seaplanes, I get an itch to write about one of those pilots. Maybe some day.
But for now, all my settings are close knit communities. Just as all my heroes tend to be men who serve the public—police, firemen and military.
Last year, I took an online class called Fearless Writing. By exploring lasting childhood memories, I learned why I’m drawn to certain stories. We all have personal emotional triggers. There have been books that I’ve raved about only to have friends read it and say “meh.” It’s not that they have poor taste but proves everyone has different emotional triggers. I learned one of the emotional experiences I crave in the stories I read is angst, and I choose romance because, despite the angst, I know there will be a happy ending. Experiencing this angst is akin to why people ride roller coasters. They get to experience that thrill in a safe environment. The same can be said of reading emotional stories.
I am the baby of the family with much older brothers and a sister. One of my earliest memories is of the night the chief of police in our small town came to the door. He informed my parents that one of my older brothers had been involved in an accident with fatalities. He assured my parents that my brother was alive and he was sending his teen daughter to babysit so my parents could go to the hospital. The fact that he went an extra step to help in my family’s time of need made an impression on me. If we had lived in a bigger town or city, I’m not sure the experience would have been the same.
I think a lot of people today crave connection. When I was growing up, our neighbors were like family because people tended to live in the same house next door to the same people for all their lives. These days, I barely get to know my neighbors before they move across town, across the state or across the country.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we received a Christmas card with this as a street address “some apartments behind Main Street.” We hadn’t lived in those apartments very long but our upstairs neighbor was the Post Mistress’ daughter. We were connected so to speak, and the card reached us.
I think the popularity of small-town stories is due to people longing for those connections. In my latest release, The Sheriff’s Little Matchmaker, Sheriff Remy takes that extra step. He mentors the boys he caught smoking weed in the local cemetery, cleans the gutters of the widowed school librarian and brings reinforcements when the heroine’s cat goes missing. Maybe there’s a little bit of that police chief from my childhood in Sheriff Remy Fontenot.
A 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® winner, Carrie Nichols, is a hardy New Englander who traded snow for central AC when she moved to the Deep South. She loves to travel, is addicted to British crime dramas and knows a Seinfeld quote appropriate for every occasion. Carrie has one tolerant husband, two grown sons and a highly opinionated cat. To her dismay, Carrie’s characters, much like her family, often ignore the wisdom and guidance she lovingly offers.