[Note from Frolic: We are so excited to welcome author Melissa Ferguson to the site today. She’s sharing the perks of writing a novel set in your own town! Take it away, Melissa!]
I never really knew you were allowed to write a novel set in your own town. For some reason, I thought there was some sort of author code of ethics stating: a true novelist must prove his or her worth by writing solely about places and activities as far removed from personal experience as possible, otherwise novelist is a sham leaning on puny life experience instead of imagination and research and will be driven from publishing society via pitchforks and social media shaming. Ah, I was (and still am) such a fledgling in this industry.
So, when I wrote the second book in my contract, The Cul-de-Sac War (available November 10!), based in my own world of Abingdon, VA, I sent it to my editor with fingers crossed, hoping she wouldn’t baulk at it. (Or worse, have the legal department declare you can’t write stories based in real placesꟷ even if it is in the most charming, Hallmark-worthy town in the world.)
And as it turns out, writing a novel set in your own town isn’t only acceptable, it’s grand. So grand, in fact, that I set my following novella coming out next spring in this world too. Here are the perks:
Establishments love it.
I realized quickly that it wasn’t just incredibly fun to write a story based in your own town, but friends and owners of the shops mentioned also find it incredibly fun. After all, who wouldn’t? It’s so cool to be able to walk into nearly any bookstore and library in the nation, pick up a book, and find your own restaurant– your own pride and joy– as the setting in the scene where the main character and his (definite-mistake-of-a) girlfriend sit in an intimate corner table, eating a fine meal by candlelight.
It’s fodder for social media and newsletter posts.
You know the expectations and pressure for unique, daily content. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, newsletters, TikTok, blogs, special pre-order exclusive downloads. The places you can share and the amount to do so feels endless, is endless, and sometimes the creative well just dries up. But if you write about your own town, you can easily fill up dozens of posts with pictures of the places where you just wrote a scene, of cups of coffee where the main character gets her daily latte and chats it up with the quirky barista. It’s a unique, visual way to combine selections of your upcoming novel with photos of your life, helping readers be intrigued about the novel while also helping them get to know you better.
It creates opportunities.
I went out to The Martha Washington Inn for dinner one evening and shared a picture of the advanced copy of The Cul-de-Sac War alongside a glass of port. Naturally, I included a little caption about how excited I was to have included this special inn in my book that not only hosted my wedding rehearsal dinner twelve years ago but also has served as the restaurant, hotel, and even salon I’ve used over the years. I tagged a neighboring restaurant that was in my book as well (The Tavern), and before I knew it, both The Martha Washington Inn and The Tavern were responding. The Tavern, remarkably established in 1779 just three years after America gained independence, even said they’d like me to include a handwritten excerpt of my book for their special drawer— as in, the drawer that has housed only a few select writings dating back to 1779! What an honor! But also, what an opportunity to share that across all social media channels when I go down to join my handwritten excerpt with the selections in The Tavern’s drawer. The point is, writing a book set in your own town creates opportunities, which can lead to other opportunities, and so on. Before long, you may have your book in all the local gift shops in town.
It’s easier to write.
Oh, so much easier. Instead of Google mapping for the twentieth time how Bay Street turns into Day in some cool town you’ve visited once in your lifetime, writing about your own town comes naturally. You’ll find yourself driving past that old theater just to make sure you remember the color of the rooftop flags flapping in the wind, and driving down streets you’ve gone down a thousand times before just to make sure that railroad was exactly where you pictured in your memory. And of course, this is ultimately your imaginary world so if you want to suddenly make that road a cul-de-sac (*cough, like the road in my book, The Cul-de-Sac War), you can! If you want there to be a theater warehouse next to a cow field on the edge of town, you can. And, what’s even better, is that while you are writing the story itself, you can share pictures about your research while you’re doing it.
It gives you something unique to say when you talk about it.
I have discovered that whether I’m being interviewed online or a neighbor starts chatting, one of the first things I say about the book is that it’s based right here in Abingdon, VA. This is quick, easy, and something that more often than not– especially for locals– sparks people’s interest. People, as it turns out, love books in their own world (and especially those Easter egg jokes only locals would understand).
So, authors, give it a try. And while doing so, keep a sharp eye out for all the free publicity opportunities around every turn!
About the Author:
The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson, out now!
All’s fair in love and prank wars.
Bree Leake doesn’t want to be tied down. She’s had more jobs than she can count, and she plans to move as soon as the curtains fall on her less-than-minor stage role at The Barter—the oldest live performance theater in the US. But just when it’s time to move on again, Bree’s parents make her an offer: hold steady for a full year, and they will give her the one thing she’s always wanted—her grandmother’s house. Her dreams are coming true . . . until life at the theater throws her some curve balls.
And then there’s Chip McBride—her handsome and infuriating next-door neighbor.
Chip just might be the only person whose stubborn streak can match Bree’s. She would move heaven and earth to have him off her cul-de-sac and out of her life, but according to the bargain she’s struck, she can’t move out of her house and away from the man who’s making her life miserable. So begins Bree’s obsessive new mission: to drive Chip out of the neighborhood—and fast.
Bree isn’t the only one who’s a tad competitive, and Chip is more than willing to fight fire with fire. But as their pranks escalate, the line between love and hate starts to blur—and their heated rivalry threatens to take a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic new turn.