[Note from Frolic: We are so excited welcome multiple small town romance authors to the site to talk all things small town romance!]
Ooh, I get to talk about writing small town romance with some of my favorite small-town romance authors? How fun!!
I’m Erin Nicholas and small-town romance is my favorite thing to read and to write for sure! I first started writing small towns because it’s what I knew best! I’ve lived in small towns (we’re talking 2,000 people or less) all my life and writing about small towns in my books is like writing about my own backyard. There’s just something special about a small town that, for me, adds an extra layer of fun to a story and series.
I think my favorite thing about it really is creating the town itself. I tend to make up fictional towns that are based on real places I love. But the fun of making it fictional is that the places—from the café (like the one I created that serves horrible coffee…on purpose to keep people from staying too long) to the beauty parlor (like the Bang and Blow) to the bar in fictional Appleby, Iowa (called Granny Smith’s that specializes in, of course, hard ciders)—can all be made up too!
I can add a bakery if I need one (let’s be honest, I always need a bakery!) or I can make the owner of the bar a hilarious, gruff, grandmother who makes amazing gumbo and has even more amazing advice to dish up—whether you want it or not!
The names of the places, the people that run them, the way those places set the background and tone for the story and series and even how the characters interact with those places is so much fun! And having those places reappear in the stories as the series goes on is a ton of fun and gives readers—and me—a sense of “home” that weaves through the books. So yes, I love MANY things about writing small town romance, but creating the towns is probably my favorite thing!
It’s probably why one of my favorite TV series of all times is Hart of Dixie (you have to find it on Hulu if you’ve Never seen it). Bluebell, Alabama is absolutely a character all on its own and is as much a part of the show as any of the characters.
Okay, Melanie Harlow, your turn! What is your favorite fictional small town in a TV show, movie, or book? And what’s your favorite part about writing small town romance? And yes, you can only pick one thing! 😉
Hey, Erin! It’s so funny you asked that question, because recently I’ve gotten addicted to Schitt’s Creek! I love the juxtaposition of the city folk in the small town, and how the characters interact with each other. In a small town, everyone knows each other, and there are very few secrets! In a way, it’s like one big family.
I think that’s what I love most about writing small town romance–it feels familiar. We all recognize those two grumpy old men sitting on the bench outside the coffee shop, or the exhausted diner waitress who still manages to smile at everyone, the little old ladies who gossip in the beauty parlor, the former pageant queen whose life didn’t quite turn out the way she planned. It’s fun to take those recognizable characters and make them feel fresh, find a new way to tell a time-honored tale of finding love in a small town, whether you never left, or you’re returning home to start again, or you find yourself stranded there on the way to somewhere else (but of course, you’re right where you’re supposed to be). It warms my heart every time!
And of course, I get a kick out of injecting some serious heat into those small towns… I like the sweet AND the sexy! What about you, Catherine Cowles? What do you love best about writing small town romance?
There are so many things I love about writing small town romance but at the top of my list is the sense of community. My characters may have more people than they’d like in their business but when the chips are down the residents always come together to support each other. It’s what I love writing about small town romances and what I love about reading them too!
I’ve been a die-hard small town romance fan for as long as I’ve been a reader. I’ve got so many favorites but at the top of my list are:
- The Colorado Mountain series by Kristen Ashley (Sweet Dreams is one of my most re-read books of ALL TIME!)
- The Witness by Nora Roberts
- The Men of Honor series by KC Lynn
- Broken by Kelly Elliott
- Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen
- Tinsel by Devney Perry
- Ember by Emma Renshaw
What about you, Samantha Chase? Do you have a favorite small-town romance or series? Maybe a few? It’s so hard to stick to just one…
It is seriously hard to pick just one! And the funny thing is that even though we all get the same “feels” from reading (and writing) small town romances, each town really has a personality of its own! There will always be similar shops, characters, and reasons why people come and stay, but I think the biggest appeal is how you always feel welcome whether you’re a fictional character or the reader.
I remember reading Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series and thinking “I want to live there!” and that’s something I hope readers feel when they read my small town stories. And of course I felt the same way when I read Melanie Shawn’s Hope Falls series and Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor…seriously, the list is endless! And the best part is you can go back and re-read them and feel welcomed all over again!
So, Katana Collins, how do you go about making a small town that’s unique? Is it the people or the businesses? Do tell!!
Oh man… that’s actually a really tricky question!!
Okay, FIRST of all, Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold series was my first exposure to small town romance, so I actually squealed when I saw your mention of it! I fell in love with the place and the families and in SO many ways, it reminded me of my real-life large, quirky family!
One of the most beautiful things about small towns, both in fiction and reality, is the fact that no matter if we are in California or Iowa or Georgia or Maine… or even Ireland and across the world, the hearts of them are familiar to all readers. Small towns are, at their core, extended family. Members of the community watch out for each other, they come together, they love each other, but also have their dysfunctions just like our real families.
So, in some ways, all of us who write small town romance have some semblance of similarity there. I think the key phrase for me when I write small town is: Uniquely Familiar. My fictional town of Maple Grove is familiar to readers who love the genre, but the unique aspect comes from that New England woodsy and lakes region flare we have up here! But more than that, I think it’s the people and characters in my book that are a bit more unique. As someone who used to be a professional actress in real life, I can’t seem to keep Hollywood and New York City types out of ANY of my stories… and Maple Grove is no different. Those big city folks keep infiltrating my little town… but Maple Grove residents always manage to take it in stride and maintain their values despite that (and sometimes those big city folk end up loving it so much that they stay!).
(Also, as a funny side note, I realized after 4 books in the series that this little town has like a MILLION bakeries and not a single grocery store! HA! Now THAT’S a place I want to live!)
HEY ERIN! What’s up, my dude!? So, a couple questions for you… 1) What was the first small town romance you read? 2) If you could spend one day with one of your characters, who would it be and why?
Hey Katana, sweetie! Why do I feel like we missed a huge opportunity to do this convo via Zoom call with wine and cupcakes?! Lol!
Wow, so my first small town romance? I don’t know if I can remember THAT far back! I started reading romance at age fourteen and never looked back! But one series that stands out for me, in part because of the town, is Erin McCarthy’s A Date With the Other Side and Heiress for Hire. They’re set in Cuttersville, Ohio, which claims to be the most haunted city in Ohio and is a big part of the backdrop to the series and stories. The heroine in book one is a ghost tour guide and in book two the heroine lives in a haunted house and both are hilarious. Those are the kinds of fun, unique twists that small towns can add!
As for spending the day with one of my characters? Man, I know we’re not supposed to pick a favorite, but for this? Levi Spencer. He’s a Las Vegas millionaire who ends up in my tiny town of Sapphire Falls and he falls head over heels for it! He *loves* to show people around and would make sure I got to try the all the food, see all the “hot spots”, and we’d end the day at one of the infamous bonfire parties by the river with mason jars full of Booze (the legendary local moonshine made with a secret recipe!). As all good visits to all good small towns should. LOL!
This was so much fun, ladies! Any time I get to about one of my favorite topics with four of my favorite authors I’m thrilled! And any conversation that includes Schitt’s Creek, Susan Mallery, and towns with a plethora of bakeries is one I want to be a part of!
Thanks so much, Frolic for letting us dish a little about small town romance! I know the five of us could talk about this all day!
If you’re looking for quirky small towns that are truly characters, groups of friends that are really more like family, hijinks and laughter and fun and falling in love, and places that will become a home away from home that you can return to over and over, we’ve got you covered!