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What’s in a town- fiction or reality?

Many of the books I read are set in fictional locales. For example, I am a fan of Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series and Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shores series. Neither Cedar Cove, WA or Chesapeake Shores, MD are real towns, but they could be, because their creators do such a wonderful job of portraying both the towns themselves as well as the people who live there.

I set After Ten in the fictional town of Grande Valley, TX, home to the equally fictional Western Texas University. Grande Valley is actually loosely modeled on the city where I grew up, El Paso.

When I started writing Sixth South, I set it in the very real Concord, NH. I have no idea why, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. The setting has to be NH and around Concord, because it’s a spin-off of After Ten. But why Concord itself and not some fictional town near Concord?

I have no good answer for that. I’ve never been to Concord. I’m sure it’s a lovely place (New Hampshire, after all, is often called “God’s Country” for its beauty), but is it so unique or remarkable that it makes a memorable setting for a book?

I think some cities make great settings for books because the cities themselves are unique, eclectic, larger than life. The two that really come to mind are San Francisco and New Orleans (my favorite city). When books are set in cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, or New York, the setting often becomes a fundamental focus of the book, almost another character in some ways. You can’t take the story out of the city because the story needs the city, the story exists because of the city.

Conversely, there is little unique or remarkable about the mid-size midwestern city where I currently live. Would I set a book here? No. Never. It’s a nice enough place to live but do people want to read about it the way they do San Francisco? No. It’s also not a popular tourist destination, either. Coincidence? I think not.

As I thought about it further, I realized my book didn’t need to be in Concord. In fact, there are probably very good reasons for it not to be, reasons why a fictional (or at least fictionalized) locale  is a better choice.

With the decision made to move my story to a fictional town, I just needed a name. Always the hardest part for me. I tossed around a few different ideas, and now I’ve got it.

Welcome to Penbrooke, NH.

I hope my readers will enjoy their visit to the town and become friends with its residents. It might become home to a series.


One comment on “What’s in a town- fiction or reality?

  1. I think changing the name to Penbrooke is great! Loving this story! Names are always so hard for me, too!

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