Monday, August 8, 2011
Seekerville Welcomes Guest Blogger Christine Johnson
Debby here! Join me in welcoming Love Inspired Historical author Christine Johnson to Seekerville. I had the pleasure of judging Christine's debut novel, SOARING HOME, in a national contest and loved her work. We met last year at the RWA Conference, and I invited her to guest blog. Fast forward another year and we were finally able to make it happen.
Christine's giving away THREE copies of her August release, THE MATRIMONY PLAN, so be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. Christine also brought cinnamon coffeecake--from Lily's Restaurant, featured in her book--that's still warm from the oven and melt in your mouth good! Grab a cup of coffee and a slice of coffeecake, and let's listen as Christine talks about "Town-Building."
Thank you, Debby, for inviting me to Seekerville, and good morning all! I’m thrilled to join you today at one of my favorite blogs. Dare I admit that in my unpubbed days I wanted to be on the Island? The tropical breezes and Captain Jack enticed for certain, but the camaraderie and support between the Seekers on and off the island was and is something special. Congratulations to all the Seekers for making it off Unpubbed Island. Luckily for the rest of us seeking publication, support abounds in our fellow writers, and I was blessed with the unwavering support of my critique partners, the Lord’s guidance, and the faith of editor Emily Rodmell at Love Inspired, who took a chance on a messy manuscript about a woman who wanted to fly WWI-era aeroplanes.
Today I’m going to talk a little about town-building. Writers often refer to world-building when they need to create a fictional world, but I’m a small-town girl who works on a smaller scale. Before beginning my first inspirational romance, Soaring Home, I needed to decide whether or not to use a real small town. As a reader, I do enjoy a familiar location, particularly when I can pick out specific buildings and businesses. But real towns are, well, real. The buildings must be in exactly the correct spot. For historical novels, the author needs to know which businesses existed at that time and what they looked like. For many small towns, collecting that information takes a lot of research, often on location. Though more and more local history is getting digitized, much of it still remains only in paper, tucked away in libraries, historical societies, and archives. In the end, the historical record is always limited to the photographs taken and the events that were recorded.
That frustration plus the advantages of a fictional town led me to create the town of Pearlman. Businesses and houses can be placed exactly where they need to be. I can use favorite locations from the many small towns I’ve visited and lived in through the years. It does mean starting from scratch, creating every building and home, every creek and hill, every street and railroad line.
How to keep those details straight? I love visuals, so a map is essential. Mine is crudely drawn in pencil, so I can make alterations as required. It includes all the blocks, the street names, the businesses, characters’ homes, rivers, lakes, and transportation lines like highways and railroads. I love to place my fictional town within the context of actual locations, so surrounding cities and landmarks are often real places or places that existed at the time of the story.
I also sketch room interiors, so I know store and home layouts and exactly where every piece of furniture is located. And no, my characters are not allowed to move the furniture!
Character lists and genealogies are of course essential. Those go into a binder along with the sketches. Yes, I’m old school and use paper rather than the computer. But if you have a great idea how to organize this data, I’d love to hear about it—even if it’s computer-based. Someday I’ll get past the fear that my hard drive is going to crash. (I’ve suffered three of those to date.) So bring on the ideas! Let me know what you do to keep tabs on all that town (or world) building information.
And readers, do you prefer real towns or fictional towns? Has an incorrect detail about a real town ever thrown you completely out of the story? Years ago, I read a story about a town near my hometown, and one of the details was completely inaccurate. I couldn’t finish the story. Have you ever experienced something similar?
I’ll be giving away three signed copies of my current release, THE MATRIMONY PLAN, today. Good luck, and God bless!
Christine Johnson is a small-town Michigan girl who has lived in every corner of the state’s Lower Peninsula. After trying her hand at music and art, she returned to her first love -- story. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in library studies from the University of Michigan. She feels blessed to write and to be twice named a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart® award. When not at the computer keyboard, she loves to hike and explore God’s majestic creation. She participates in her church’s healing prayer ministry and has experienced firsthand the power of prayer. These days, she and her husband, a Great Lakes ship pilot, split their time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys. Visit her at http://christineelizabethjohnson.com.
About THE MATRIMONY PLAN:
Felicity Kensington is preparing for the grandest wedding Pearlman, Michigan, has ever seen. True, her prospective husband is virtually a stranger. But the well-connected engineer her father hired fits all her marriage criteria. Except for one tiny flaw: it’s the town’s new pastor, not the wealthy engineer, who makes Felicity’s heart race….
Gabriel Meeks left New York to avoid high society’s foolish rules. Instead, he’s immediately smitten with the high-and-mighty Miss Kensington. Beneath Felicity’s misplaced pride is a woman of genuine worth, if he can only help her see it. And nothing could make him happier than ensuring that her matrimony plan takes an unexpected twist!