Frontier, Folklore, and Feuds: Harnessing the Best of the West to Create a Fictional Town By Janine Rosche

There was a time in my childhood when I stumbled into the world of soap operas. I loved the angst, romance, and the evil twins! But one detail really caught my attention. There were catacombs beneath General Hospital! What?! Even at nine years old I understood that catacombs weren’t exactly common, but that didn’t matter. Since Port Charles was a fictional city, all the writers had to say was, “Let there be catacombs,” and there were.

When I decided to set my new series in a fictional Colorado town, I didn’t realize how much fun I would have. Picture creating a world with every cool thing you could imagine!

Now, I didn’t go crazy. I still needed my town to be somewhat realistic so I based all of Whisper Canyon’s eccentricities on other cities and towns in the west. Here are some of the TRUE places and stories that inspired my town in Aspen Crossroads:


The Feud

There’s nothing like a good old feud to liven up a town! Take it from me—my brother-in-law is a Hatfield. Luckily, my sister is not a McCoy. In my series, the canyon was discovered by Alva Haviland who fled the south after he burned down a pro-slavery newspaper office, leaving behind a heartbroken fiancée. To avenge her heartache, her uncle Prescott Garrison chased Alva across the prairie and into the mountains. When he laid eyes on Whisper Canyon, he saw the potential for wealth and took more than his fair share of land. The Haviland/Garrison feud has been brewing ever since, nearly destroying the town in the process.

The Caverns

Three hours west of Denver, the quaint mountain town of Glenwood Springs hosts tourists looking for both relaxation in their natural hot springs and adventure in their caverns. Aren’t caverns amazing? There’s something magical about seeing the awe-inspiring tunnels and caves while knowing you could die any minute, am I right? Talk about angst!! This is why in Aspen Crossroads, Haven and Jace go spelunking in Whisper Canyon Caverns, where they are forced to confront their fears and their feelings for each other.

My children and I at Glenwood Springs Caverns
My children and I at Glenwood Springs Caverns

The Mill

My favorite restaurant west of the Mississippi is in a little tourist town known for river tubing. The town is Gruene, Texas, and the restaurant is The Gristmill.  An 1878 water-powered mill was turned into a restaurant ninety-nine years after it first opened. The food ranges from casual lunches to the delicious peppercorn steak that I’ve been craving since I moved from Texas fifteen years ago. And because you can eat outside overlooking the Guadalupe River, in the beer garden, or on one of three floors inside the restaurant, every dining experience feels new. It’s simply cinematic. So when I needed to give my characters a new life (after being rescued from sex work), I created a mill-to-restaurant renovation that these women could be proud of!

The Gristmill, Gruene, Texas
Photo courtesy of @gristmillriverrestaurant on Instagram

A Legend

What good is a town without a local legend? In Whisper Canyon, that legend is Ol’ Six Claw, a bear with, you guessed it, six claws on one paw. His ghostly form has been spotted in the canyon for more than one hundred and fifty years, and it’s believed he started the fire that turned Whisper Canyon into a ghost town in 1885. This troublesome bear was inspired by West Yellowstone, Montana’s Snaggletooth—a grizzly bear that was known to forage in the town dump in the 60s and 70s and is now stuffed and on display in the town’s museum.

Old Snaggletooth, West Yellowstone Historic Center

Now that you know a little bit about the making of Whisper Canyon, I’d love for you to visit by picking up the first book in the series, Aspen Crossroads.

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GIVEAWAY: It’s your turn! If you were to create a town, what would you be inspired to include? One commenter will win a Love Wander Read sweatshirt from my new LWR Apparel collection. Winner to choose size and color. Winner must be 18 and, due to shipping costs, must have a US mailing address. Contest runs October 1-4th. Winner will be notified by email.

Bio: Prone to wander, Janine Rosche finds as much comfort on the open road as she does at home. This longing to chase adventure, behold splendor, and experience redemption is woven into her Madison River Romance and Whisper Canyon series. When she isn’t writing or traveling, she teaches family life education courses to college students, takes too many pictures of her sleeping dogs, and embarrasses her four children and husband with boy band serenades. Her latest story, Dreams in Toyland, can be found in the Christmas in Mistletoe Square novella collection, available now.

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57 thoughts on “Frontier, Folklore, and Feuds: Harnessing the Best of the West to Create a Fictional Town By Janine Rosche”

  1. Around here, a lot of towns have a beautiful fountain near the courthouse. Love that.

    Baltimore has catacombs.

  2. When I learned Dallas has underground tunnels, I needed to find them. They are pretty cool and have a few restaurants and shops in them. It was built for workers so they didn’t have to go places on the street level. There is also an old fall out shelter under the mall I like to shop at. It’s not open to the public, but a friend of mine is friends with the security and he took us down to check it out. It is used mostly used for deliveries. So my town would have underground tunnels. I would love to add a cat cafe too.

  3. our little town still has the awnings covering the sidewalks like all the old western towns used to have!

  4. I would have to be like Janie and add tunnels to my town because where I am from there are underground tunnels all over the place from a rock quarry but now is a spring water place. These tunnels run for miles underground. It is where High Bridge spring water is produced. I would also have to add the bridge across the river to my story.

  5. What a fun post, Janine! I love how you brought all these elements together to create the perfect western town. If I were designing my ideal town, it would have lots of trees, a winding river with walking paths, and lots of wooden bridges. And maybe a giant old Victorian home on a hill outside of the city limits that is shrouded in mystery. 🙂

    • Have you ever been to New Braunfels? It has beautiful old oaks in Landa park with a river running beneath them. It would be a perfect site for a Karen Witemeyer story!

  6. Fascinating and intriguing stories which involve the individuals who created the town and made it successful.

  7. Beautiful tree lined streets with charm and atmosphere, large parks with a bandstand, picnic areas, and paths meandering through the park where strands of trees keep you cool and hidden.

  8. My town would have to have a town center, with unique shops and most definitely a bookstore!! Not a huge chain bookstore, either, but a nice bookstore with a sitting area and coffee area, with some fresh baked goods.

  9. Welcome. What a fun post today. I think my town would be a wonderful place to come and visit. There would be a couple hotels, a couple of different eating establishments, a boarding house, a seamstress, bank, a couple mercantile’ s both selling same and different things, a couple of churches two different religions, a school for the younger children and a school for the older children, a library, a meeting house and of course a large sheriff’s building.
    Homes would be on both ends of the streets on either side of the road. It would be fun to have hidden rooms in one of the mercantile where women have secret meetings where they help the town. By each school house a home for the teachers. In one home there is a room under the floor in the bedroom. All the homes have cellars. I see a water fountain in the middle of the street in the middle of the town, so the street goes around the fountain. Outside of town are a lot of ranches. And a river that runs alongside the town. There are a few canyons, one that reports to be haunted and one that is like another world with green, birds, animals, a magical place where lovers like to go
    Oh but my imagination is fired now. LOL

  10. A downtown filled with small, attractive and welcoming businesses that are unique. Benches lining the main street, Colorful baskets filled with floral arrangements.

  11. The city I live in has underground tunnels that were rediscovered only a few years ago. We also used to have a trolley car system! There were speak easys, brothels, and murders…very interesting stories to tell from here!! All of these things should be included in a book about the city where I’m from!! The famous sheriff and infamous outlaws that he tracked, shot, got shot by, but imprisoned, too!! So much stuff!!!

  12. I would have a peaceful retired handsome gun fighter that had to return to his profession every so often to save the day in the town. I would have a gossipy old bitty that loved to spread rumors sometimes stretching the truth to cause more trouble. There would be an old faithful dog around town that didn’t really belong to anybody but everyone would pet and feed him. Maybe I would put in a haunted house that everyone was afraid of and a few rumored ghosts to have been seen on dark rainy nights around it.

  13. A bandstand in a park near the center of town where concerts are held every week in the summer. A place where people of all ages get together.

  14. Great post! Thanks for a good read. Any town I would create would most certainly include a library!

  15. A park with a huge flower garden and a lighthouse by the lake that people could visit. It would be the perfect venue for weddings and family reunions!

  16. My town would be in the mountains, have a beautiful waterfall, sky lift, park rangers, bookstore, general store, Mom and Pop diner, school and church.

  17. A quaint small town with gorgeous scenery, hiking trails, historic buildings that is the perfect place to be refreshed and hope to be restored.

  18. Your fictional town sounds lovely. I think if I were to create a fictional town I’d want to have a cool old house that had secret passageways, a library with a tunnel leading underground to some other building, and lots of fun characters. Thanks for the chance to win!

  19. I would have the town high in the foothills of Colorado. (We lived there for three years and I loved it. ) The rangeland would stretch down the slopes and the summer pastures up into the mountains to the west. The town would be situated between them. There would be a hot springs just out of town on a ranch. They open it to friends and neighbors several times a year, but it is primarily used by the family and their ranch hands. During the gold and silver mining era, some mines were dug in the area uphill of the town producing some precious metal but no real motherlode. The town is a good size and is comfortably prosperous. Two mercantiles, church, school, bank, saloons, boarding houses, hotel, lumber mill, blacksmith, liveries, a bakery, telegraph & post office, sheriff’s office , jail, a city hall housing government offices, and blocks of houses. One of the big victorian houses has a tunnel leading from it to a nice cottage on the outskirts of town. The house was built by the owner of the mines who was also the banker and the tunnel was a place to hide or escape during early lawless years. In later years, a nice cottage was built near one of the tunnel exits. It is rumored the banker built the cottage for his mistress and used the tunnel to visit her.

  20. Bar with a cast of characters like Cheers
    a cute, comfy family restaurant/ bakery/ for coffee and gossip
    Department store
    Jewelry store
    grocery store
    post office
    County jail -sheriff and deputies
    Central town square with Park with gazebo, statue, garden , community house for meetings
    Fancy houses around the square
    Trailer park
    Gas station
    I like small town settings with a pretty view and something special a beautiful lake with a resort to attract visitors.
    Historic water mill
    Historic hotel

  21. There is a town in Alabama called Fairhope. My father-in-law was living there and we loved visiting. There are a couple of small bookstores and cute little shops. They also have some great restaurants and bakeries. It used to have a bed and breakfast and a tea shop. The place is really quaint. We also loved hanging out in the park and going on the dock where there was a lovely view of the water. Just has a really nice small town look to it which I enjoy in the books I read.

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