Award-winning author Corrissa James, my guest author this week, was not always a country girl. In fact, she fought it all her life, traveling the world to live in far-flung cities like St. Petersburg, Russia, Caracas, Venezuela, Varanasi, India, and Guadalajara, Mexico. She didn’t realize she was meant to live in the country until she returned to her roots in Nebraska, where she discovered the beauty of the fields around her (even if she was allergic to them) and the intensity of Mother Nature, who sure packs a wallop!
Corrissa’s contemporary western romance novels offer afternoon reads focused on strong women and the men they choose. But it’s never without some struggles along the way.
This week we’ll be giving away a kindle version of her Great Plains Romance Series novel, So Wills the Heart. (Check the sidebar for the winner of last week’s draw.)
Hi Corrissa. Good to have you with us. I drove across the US last summer and passed through Nebraska. Beautiful country! Where is your series set?
The Great Plains Romance series is set in a group of fictional towns in northeast Nebraska. I grew up in the area (and spent my entire youth trying to escape it!), but never really understood how exciting small towns could be until I returned later in life. Everyone knows everyone else (and their family business!) or is related to everyone in some way, and people are quick to offer their two cents on any situation.
There are exhaustive lists of shared memories, but everybody remembers things differently, and the details can be argued about for hours (ahem, years?). Every person in a small town has secrets, but usually the “secrets” aren’t really secrets at all. Some people are desperate to escape the small towns while others refuse to leave.
All in all, the setting offers a great opportunity for all sorts of drama—and people in small towns are experts at creating their own drama, whether at a family event, a street dance, or even over coffee at the local gas station. Oh sure, people in small towns may look like they are leading a laid-back life, but scratch the surface just a little and an exciting spectacle is sure to ensue. That’s one of the characteristics that made me want to write small-town romances.
That’s a great explanation of the appeal of small town romance. Where do you get your story ideas?
Almost all of my ideas start with a single moment and I build the characters and stories around that. For example, So Wills the Heart was inspired by a discussion about swimming in ponds and how you always have to be careful because you never know what you might find, especially in the smaller ponds (our talk focused on snapping turtles from that point forward). I liked the idea of having a startling, unexpected encounter in this very out-of-the-way place and used that to create a pond scene for So Wills the Heart. Ultimately that same idea—being surprised by what you find in new places—permeates throughout the story.
Evie, the heroine, heads to rural Nebraska to clean out the house of a deceased relative whom she’s never even heard of. Although she initially agrees to the project as a way to run away from some of her own skeletons (which she has a habit of doing), she quickly becomes bored with the endless parade of glass figures on the shelves, so she heads out to explore the countryside.
Enter Jonathan, the youngest of four close-knit brothers running a cattle operation. I won’t give away all the details, but suffice it to say that their initial meeting takes place in a pond and it is electric! Ultimately, Jonathan opens Evie’s eyes to the beauty of the area, and she starts making all sorts of discoveries about herself and what she wants out of life.
But of course we all know that in small towns, drama is always part of the package, which creates a difficult decision for Evie: Stand up to the challenges or fall back on her tried-and-true reaction of running away and starting over.
Sounds like a great premise. Do you have a new book coming up?
I am fleshing out a new series related to rural vineyards (which has been a great excuse to visit all the wineries in the area!). Some of the stories incorporate the vineyard in the heart of the conflict, others use events that take place at the wineries, but they’re all still very much small-town romances. I’ve committed to having two new books available for a readers’ event in early November, so I guess I’d better get cracking!
The research sounds brutal! Looking forward to seeing them next fall.
Now here’s an excerpt from So Wills the Heart:
Evie sat down on one of the stools and waited. She checked her phone. No messages. No data service either. She could pull up a map using one of her apps, but the GPS service couldn’t track her location. The Internet wouldn’t load.
“Great. Stuck in a bar, but I don’t know where.”
“It’s the Porterhouse.”
She swung around on the stool to see Jonathan Clark standing just inside the doorway.
He smiled. “Can’t get enough of me, huh?”
“Oh, you can help me! Where am I?”
“No, I mean what city.”
He frowned, then cocked his head. “Excuse me?”
She slid off the stool, laughing at his expression as she moved to show him the map on her phone. “I’m visiting the area and went out exploring today, kinda got lost. This is where I need to be.” She held up the phone, but he ignored it.
“Visiting, huh? I guessed as much.” He pushed past her to walk behind the bar, where he filled a red plastic cup with ice and water from a soda dispenser. He drank the entire cup without pausing, never taking his eyes off her. He refilled the empty cup and handed it to her. He leaned both elbows on the counter, then looked up at her as she drank. When his eyes dropped to her neck, she nearly choked on the water. He looked back up at her and smiled.
“You sure you’re just visiting? Couldn’t you at least pretend to be thinking of staying?”
She shrugged and set the plastic cup down on the bar. “I could see myself living out here, with all the open skies.” She caught her breath. What made her say that? She hadn’t even considered leaving Denver to live here, but when she looked at Jonathan, who was watching her closely, she smiled. Yes, she could see herself enjoying more afternoon swims with him
If you want to read more of Corrissa James, visit her Amazon Author page, or comment below to enter this week’s giveaway of So Wills the Heart.
Then, see you next week when New York Times bestselling author Stacey Joy Netzel will be my guest, and I’ll announce this week’s winner.
Thanks for dropping by.