Last week a friend and I went on a day trip to celebrate my recent graduation from college. The landscape went from the towering glass and steel buildings of Houston to the rolling hills and wildflowers of the country in less than two-hours. Suddenly, the tension I accumulated during my undergraduate years floated away like the fluffy white clouds painting that big Texas sky. I left the hustle of the city and the normalcy of my everyday life to experience a new adventure. And an adventure it was… Somewhere between a miniature horse attack, rambling through a rose garden, and singing “Chantilly Lace” at a 1950s style diner, I finally got it. Location matters.
I wandered into Peppin, Texas for the first time in 1877. It was a sleepy little township tucked away in Texas Hill Country. Back then, there wasn’t much to Main Street other than what the hero and heroine of my debut novel, Unlawfully Wedded Bride, needed to keep their farm and the story going. Only a few months passed before I started working on the next book in the series, The Runaway Bride, but that ended up being about ten years in Peppin. Imagine my surprise when I walked into that country hamlet and found it had changed into a bustling small town with modern conveniences like the railroad and telegraph.
After double checking the map of my imagination to make sure that I was in the right place, I set about familiarizing myself with Peppin, Texas of 1887. There was the boardinghouse, the seamstress shop, the hat maker, the livery, the blacksmith, the bank, etc. There were new streets, a residential section, and alleyways—even the alleyways became important. Finally, I could give you directions from my heroine’s house to the café and from the café to the church and from the church through the alleyway to the hotel. Then I sat down, took a deep breath, and wrote my story.
Suddenly, it wasn’t just writing—it was an adventure. I was in an entirely new location and after mapping out the town, I watched it come to life. I watched new characters emerge from those new businesses and houses to interact with old ones. Finally, I discovered what I suspected all along when my heroine explained Peppin to someone who had never been there before.
“It’s small but not stiflingly so. The people are friendly and really care about you. There is always something going on so you’re hardly ever bored. You can just go to the mercantile or the café to find someone to talk to or about, in some cases. It’s just a normal everyday Texas town. The only thing special about it are the people.”
Yes, sometimes it does feel a little weird to have an entire town of people in my head taking up space but I will gladly bear that privilege and burden because I want their stories to be as real to you as they are to me. I want their adventures to sweep you from that high rise, subway, or suburb into a country church, dark alley, or raging river so that hopefully when you finish the last page of my book you’ll smile and think to yourself, ‘That location mattered.’
Noelle has offered to give away two copies of her book, The Runaway Bride, to two lucky winners. All you have to do to be entered is join in the conversation.