I normally write the boy/girl next door type stories. Regular people with regular jobs. Most are set near or in Erie, PA, my hometown. I write lots of medical people and attorneys. Teachers. Cops. Restaurant owners/waitresses. Reporters. Scientists. Farmers. I write those professions because I know a lot of people in those professions.
But now and then, I branch out.
My friend Carolyn Brown writes Texans and cowboys. Now, we don't have a lot of cowboys here in Erie, though I did give a character a cowboy hat in A Walk Down the Aisle. But Carolyn asked me to write a novella and set it in her "world." That was a challenge.
How was I going to write a cowboy for Able to Love Again? The heroine was easy. I took an Erie girl on the run down to Texas. But that cowboy? I finally realized he wasn't a wrangling-steers sort of cowboy, but a sheriff with a big heart...and a cowboy hat. And I really fell for his cowboy ways. It was fun writing in Carolyn's world and take my writing down to Texas. And writing that cowboy stretched my writing and my way of looking at archetypes. There are a lot of cowboy romances, but I definitely put my own twist on mine!
One of my other 'branches' was my Amish novella, A Simple Heart. When I wrote Christmas in Cupid Falls, I set my fictional town Cupid Falls outside the very real Waterford, PA. I used a statue of George Washington that sits in Waterford as the center of my "Legend of Cupid Falls." (Someone from out in Waterford asked me if the legend was real...I was so complimented. I'm putting it in my PS.) In my minds eye, Cupid Falls is near where we have our camp. So many of my neighbors out there are Amish, so it made sense to add some Amish characters to that story. That idea of being Amish means being set apart. And characters who feel they are set apart are always fun to write. So, I took a man who grew up Amish and introduced him to a woman who grew up English. Oh, and for all you Nana Vancy fans...she has cameos in both the book and the novella.
Stretching. That's something that every writer has got to continue doing. Writing new character types. Writing from new perspectives. Writing different types of books. (Yes, in addition to romances and romantic comedies, I kill people now...Maid in LA's 5th book is out in June!)
My goal as a writer is to continue to try new things, write new characters, but still have that same sense of Hollyness to my stories. I hope you check out some of my "stretching" stories!
PS. As promised, here's the Legend of Cupid Falls:
The Legend of Cupid Falls, Pennsylvania
To the south of Erie, Pennsylvania—south of the Great Lake that shares a name with the city—is Falls Creek. It is bigger than most creeks, but not quite large enough to be considered a river. It runs through field and forest to a ridge, carved millennia ago by a glacier. There, it plunges over the edge, falling to a hollowed-out swimming hole before becoming a creek again and meandering on its way.
Local legend has it that when George Washington visited the nearby town of Waterford in 1753, one of his retinue was touring the area. The locals took him to the falls, and there he met a farmer’s daughter. He married her later that same year and they settled near the creek. Years later, their daughter went to the falls with a group of friends and noticed that one of the boys in the group might be more than a friend. They married later that same year. And so it went, year after year, decade after decade, couple after couple, until the small waterfall, which in actuality was little more than a creek tumbling over a small cliff, became known as Cupid’s Falls.
When a town grew up a few miles away, the residents named it Cupid Falls as an homage to their waterfall.
And to this day, it is said that when two people meet at the falls and declare their love, they are destined for a long, happy romance . . .
Even if that’s not what they went to the falls looking for.