Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Why Readers Make Main Street, U.S.A. Their Hometown for Happy-Ever-Afters

Small town romance.

Grace Haven, Book Two... on sale 7/16, Preorder HERE
People love small town romances. They read them voraciously. They read series of books about the same town, the same family, the same people. They are quite willing to overlook the unlikelihood of several people falling in love within a few months time, because they love, love, love romance series in Small Town, USA.

Readers adopt the setting as a wrap-around character.

They empathize with the aging grandmother, the overwhelmed single mom, the waitress at the Main Street Diner, the nurses, the teachers, the young executive women who find themselves booted off of Wall Street and trying to find their place (like a square peg in a really skinny round hole) among the locals.

They swoon for the cowboy, the contractor, the cop, the soldier, the doctor, the fireman, the investigator.... Alpha, beta, troubled, wounded.... Oh, be still our hearts! And if the town bad boy comes back to town??? We learn to welcome him with open arms, like Colt Stafford when he rolls back into the Double S Ranch in Gray's Glen, Washington with not much more than the clothes on his back. 

Great Reviews! Link to Amazon for Back in the Saddle! 
College town or cow-town, in the densely green Eastern woodlands of the Northeast, or the muggy, sultry summer days of the deep south and everything in between. Bestselling authors like Kristan Higgins, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Debbie Macomber, Robyn Carr dot the NYT bestseller lists with small-town romance which means Love Inspired didn't invent the concept... but they've worked hard to reconstruct it affordably for the Christian reader. I've had the honor to be right there with them alongside amazing authors like Irene Hannon, Lenora Worth, Linda Goodnight, Val Hansen, Arlene James and many of my Seeker sisters including RITA finalist Missy Tippens and Carol winner Tina Radcliffe.

But what is the draw? I asked some beloved readers to give their opinions, and I think they all agreed they love the transparency of the small-town story

Deb H.:  What I like about small town series is the wholesome community feeling I get without the EVERYBODY knowing all your business. I also like the cool family type businesses that usually pop up and the quirky folks there (usually what I refer to as old geezers). **Ruthy loves injecting old geezers into stories!!! #favorite #fun #sostinkinnormal!!!!

"Nostalgia," answered Tracey Hagwood. "When it's defined as, 'a sentimental yearning for the happiness felt in a former place, time, or situation'. For those who haven't experienced small town life, could just be their perception of what it would be like. 

Keywords so far: Nostalgia. Wholesome. Community. Quirky. Geezers. Yearning.

When you picture those key words, now you begin to get a sense of why folks enjoy these small-town or rural romances by the hundreds of thousands...

And by the way, this is a good time to celebrate my MILLION BOOKS SOLD!!!!!

Which is totally unbelievable to me, and yet... true. The gals laugh at me sometimes because while I might not do spreadsheets.... I'm always paying attention to numbers, so when I was revamping my books sold and topped a MILLION.... Eee gads, I about fell over. And with the exception of a couple, they've all been small town books/series. 

I love small towns, but after living in one for 45 years, I understand the ups and downs, and weaving that reality into the story is what makes the plot jump out as downright real to the reader. The best-kept secrets become open books when the local first responders answer calls for an overdose, domestic violence, runaway kids, heart attacks, break-ins, bad dogs, missing kittens... The best way to keep your dirty laundry secret... wait, there is no best way. So avoid the dirty laundry at all costs! But add some to your stories because the element of realism is crucial to plot development.

Vince Mooney didn't disappoint when I asked his opinion and what a good one it was! 

Love Inspired, Love Inspired Historical, and to a lesser degree, Love Inspired Suspense are all what I call "Cozy Romances".

Few settings are as cozy as small towns where everyone knows everyone else; where the 'help your neighbor' frontier mentality still exists; where doors are often still left unlocked; and where strangers are noticed and watched.

(Of course, like many little children, some small towns can be quite nasty -- but they just don't get portrayed that way in cozy romances.)

He's right... Folks read Amish and small-town stories for the gentler side of humanity. We all like to believe that Mayberry hasn't totally gone by the wayside when the surround sound of 24 hour news speaks of so much darkness.

Note to all: There has always been darkness. It haunts the edges of humanity like a serpent, waiting. Our job is to cling to Christ's light, to shrug off the dark and depressing and grasp the true meaning of faith... and then, to bring it alive in our stories!

Cindy Woolard touched on a hugely important component:  For me the pull to a small town is the closeness of the town. Everyone knows almost everyone. The town celebrates together, grieves together, etc. The characters can pull the reader into a place the reader would love to live or at least experience in real life. 

Two things are clutch in Cindy's words. "The town celebrates together; grieves together..." If the story is all happy-go-lucky, the author has missed the chance to grab the reader's hearts and attention, because things happen. When a loving father died in my Kirkwood Lake series, I received beautiful e-mails because losing him.... and watching him fail... resonated with readers. They'd gotten to know him over several books, and they felt the loss, but recognized the hope in the remaining family, and that offers them courage to find their own hope, through God. 

Cindy also mentioned "pulling the reader into a place the reader would love to live..." And that's the ticket!
You want that nostalgia and warmth to wrap around the reader, to help them focus on the hope of good times through times of trouble because isn't that what God wants for us? Strength in times of stress and trouble, simple cups of faith outpoured.

Donna Mynatt remarked:  The friendliness... people go out of their way to be kind - and helpful.

And Cindy Regnier had this to say: I live in a small town of about 500 people and I totally
get this. A small town is a place where everyone knows you and nothing is private. The UPS man delivers packages addressed to my home to me at work because he knows I'm there. If I go for a walk, at least 5 people driving by will stop to ask if I need a ride. In the summer I find zucchini or tomatoes on my front porch and in my car. If I get a wrong number phone call, the person will stay on the line and visit for 10 minutes. The sirens blow at noon to announce lunch hour and if a romance is blooming, the ladies of the town will have the wedding planned before the poor girl even realizes her heart is fluttering. 

"The UPS man delivers packages addressed to my home to me at work, because he knows I'm there..."

In today's times, some folks would find this crazy... why would you let folks know your house is  unattended? But the cozy reality of small town romance is that folks look out for one another, and when the chips are down here or there... quite often there's someone with a kind heart to help you pick up the pieces.

And there's that nostalgia we all love and often long for.

I love writing small towns. I love visiting big cities like Philly and NYC and Boston and Baltimore and just recently Phoenix, AZ!!!!

 But I love coming back to the lush green of upstate, to our historical society and our Hilton Reader's Guild and our town park and village library.... because it's home. And to quote a wise and really cute heroine... "And if I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't go looking any farther than my own backyard."  (Dorothy, "Wizard of Oz")

Hey, I brought 4th of July Cake to share!!!! 
And Independence Day pie!!!!
The coffee's on.... Come on in and let's talk about what you love about writing small towns... or if that's not your cup of tea, what you do like to write or read about?

I'm always willing to listen and serve coffee and baked goods! 

For three lucky commenters today, I'll be sending out copies of  "An Unexpected Groom" OR "Her Unexpected Family" books one and two in the new Grace Haven series from Love Inspired!

Let's talk Americana, my friends!

Multi-published, bestselling author Ruth Logan Herne is in love with life.... she is living her dream and pinching herself each morning to see if it's real, but it appears to be! You can visit her at her website RuthLoganHerne.com or stop over and friend her on facebook as Ruth Logan Herne.... and she loves hanging out at the Yankee Belle Cafe with a bunch of wonderful inspirational authors who love food as much as she does... or at Ruthy's Place..... 


  1. Small towns are like Seekerville. Like Cheers.

    Where everybody knows your name.

    Everyone leaves, and only the brave return because they realize there is no place like home!

  2. I do enjoy small town stories. There's a often a hark to days gone by.

  3. Hi Ruthy! I loved your post. I do love small town life but like you mentioned it is good to visit the big cities ever so often. We go down to Indianapolis and that's where I get my Trader Joe fix. But to be honest, the quietness of a small town is something else I like. When I first moved to Auburn, Indiana, a town of about 10K fifteen years ago (now pushing 18K) I found it hard to sleep because it was so quiet. I had moved from Anaheim, CA where gunshots at night were the norm and of course heavy traffic. Those sounds became white noise for me and when I got here it was difficult at first but now I love the quiet.

    May you all have a blessed day!
    Cindy W.

  4. Great post, Ruthy! Did you bake that pie? It's too beautiful to cut.

  5. Hahahahaha! Jill! Yes, I did, and I'm making more this weekend for our Herne family reunion! Doesn't it look marvelous???? Oh, be still my pie-loving heart!

    And after lots of years of making glorious wedding cakes, I promise you.... nothing is too beautiful to cut, LOL!!!

    I'm still happy dancing for you, my fellow writer friend!

  6. Tina, that's the truth of it. There is often more honest emotion in one small town than in a host of big cities where everyone kind of keeps to themselves....

    And I love to see that emotion rolled out in a story!

  7. Ahoy, Mary Preston!!!!!

    You know that's true for so many folks, and I think that's the thing.... except that there's still a lot of that in American small towns, but our coasts kind of ignore their existence.

    There was a push several years ago, a study about the demographics of Ivy League classes and the big thing they noticed was their lack of students from the U.S. heartland... And they were going to follow up on it to fix it, but my kids graduated and I never heard if the numbers got changed.... To a lot of our "coastals", living in the interior of the U.S. is kind of considered backwards if you don't share the more liberal ideas.

    Oh, give me backwards any day and twice on Tuesdays!!!!

    (Off my soapbox now)

  8. Cindy, thank you so much for being part of this, now you must go and tell everyone!!!!

    You made such good points, and the quietness is a funny one that now I'm going to include in the next book as a "thing"....

    Gotta have a thing!

    I had a sister-in-law way back who couldn't stand to come visit us in the evening because it was so dark. She lived in the land of streetlights and couldn't adjust.

    It's funny that we accustom ourselves to our normal as The Normal... and then forget to stretch.

    You stretched and look what you found! Amazing, right?

    I've had frogs and peepers and toads singing all night outside my windows, it's like living in a forest...and then the birdsong at 4:30 AM.... So fun!

    And when I'm in the city the hum and whiz of traffic is amazingly different and constant. And whistles and sirens and car horns.

    But I sure do love to visit!

  9. I love America, and I live in a small town. We have two stop lights, an IGA, and a Dollar store and of course a beauty shop and barber shop, a Subway, a Chinese restaurant and a Mexican restaurant. But what we really have are lots of good neighbors we love. Our mayor, Harold Rainwater, is the longest serving mayor in the state of Kentucky. This is an amazing little place.

    Have a great day!

  10. I grew up on a farm and have lived all but about five years of my life outside any city limits of all. There is a level of safety in small-town and rural America that, while not as high as it used to be, still draws people to it. I still roll my eyes because my city-raised husband locks everything. I'm aware that my perception may be off (I've lived in the same house since 1977), but I'll go with it.

  11. Jackie.... that is my kind of town! Oh be still my heart, I could move in next door to you and we'd gab!

    Love it!!!! But even more, Harold's longevity says that sometimes it's okay to not have change....

    I'm grinning!!!!

  12. Liz, that's so true and so funny.... We used to leave everything open, but heroin reared its ugly head in our area and the addicted kids and adults were/are breaking into homes.

    So now we lock up.

    And that's all right, but I know what you mean... there's something distinctly Andy Taylor about leaving the door open and a pie cooling on the window sill!!!! I loved Aunt Bea and her pies!

    I think she inspired me to be the pie baker I am today!

  13. Ah, small towns. We all want to be there. Our fast paced society where many open their garage door, put the car away, and don't visit with neighbors face to face, makes us yearn for the places where "somebody knows our name." We can cozy up to that existence in the small town, Ruthie, and I think that these settings not only satisfy yearnings, but inspire us to seek out that friend or neighbor or seek connections.
    The quote from the blog I am taking away:
    There has always been darkness. It haunts the edges of humanity like a serpent, waiting. Our job is to cling to Christ's light, to shrug off the dark and depressing and grasp the true meaning of faith... and then, to bring it alive in our stories!
    Glad to be back after a long hiatus...decorating, quilting and child care. Ready to start writing again.

  14. Yes, the noise difference is intriguing.

    I saw a FB comment the other day by someone who had heard an ambulance and was praying for the person. That's something I was raised to do also. The difference was that the person posting that prayer request likely knew the person (and was wondering who it was) and she was remarking about it because it was unusual. Here in the city, those ambulance sounds are so much a part of the natural background noise, that I usually only notice if there are a bunch of them together or if I happen to be outside when one roars past.

    But a couple of years ago I was visiting my mother in the "country" which is really just way out suburbs of Philly, and I was really looking forward to writing on the porch in the early mornings.

    This gal who routinely writes with city street noise as background COULD NOT concentrate because of all the nature noise. Bees buzzing, birds singing - oh my word was it ever distracting!

    I guess we get used to what we have.

    I love to read small town stories, but my only time living in one was pretty miserable, Probably because we were the "summer folk" but I sure did feel the other side of all that coziness.

    Never happens in books though. ;)

  15. OLIVIA!!!!

    Welcome back, darling! And I know how swiftly life interrupts the poet within, and I've always believed that kids come first...

    And God's timing is truly amazing!

    And I'm so glad those words spoke to you... You just made my day, with or without pie and cake.

    And if you want to join us over in 1K1HR to see how fun and productive even a little time each day can be, come on over to facebook and join up! There is nothing expected, but lots of encouragement given!!!

  16. Cate.

    We must write a WF about that loneliness of being a summer person.

    Of course my version would be the young woman grows up and comes back to BUY THE STINKIN' MEAN TOWN and realizes that the kids/people who were mean to her have gone broke by being mean to summer people and the tables have turned completely.

    And the contractor is a cute guy with two little kids and while she doesn't even like children, she falls in love with him, with the town and with the kids.... but still builds her development project just to show that no one runs her life but her... and God.

    PLOT DONE!!!! :)

    It is funny that we hear what we hear.

    In our town, if a siren goes by, everyone flocks to the window to see what kind of first responder, and which way it's going!

    And we do the prayer, too....

    Hey, have you ever seen this video by Lady Antebellum? One of my favorites that has inspired an as yet to be written book in my head... Hello World Video

    Let's see if that comes through, I get teary-eyed every time I see this.

    And Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum has a beautiful new Christian hymn I've heard on KLove and bought last week... Thy Will Be Done

    I love her voice, I love the emotion she puts into song.

  17. Good morning, RUTHY! Having grown up in small Midwestern towns, I enjoy writing about little communities. They have most of the "issues" that big cities have, but the author can deal with them on, perhaps, a more personal level. I think readers enjoy the feeling of being a part of a familiar fictional community.

  18. Hi Ruthy
    I love this post, and not just because you used my comments *grin*. Both hubby and myself like small town concepts of neighbors watching out for each other and all the children. When we grew up, if we did something wrong, we got punished several times over. First the adult who caught us, then the parents of our friends we were with and THEN our parents.

    I'm going to try out the red, white, blue cake this weekend. Although that pie certainly looks good too...

  19. What a sweet post Ruthy! You have nailed it. I will always pick the "small town" vs. the big city setting given a choice because that is my familiar - and my happy place. I loved being a part of your research and you know I LOVE reading your books. I don't know how I will ever wait till October (is that the release date?) for Home on the Range.
    P.S. True story about the UPS man. And this week there is a fireworks stand in my garage. How small town is that?

  20. Loved this post about small towns. I grew up in far Southwest Virginia. Our town didn't have a red light, had one stop sign, a gas station, and a post office. If you wanted to do anything, you had to go to the next town over. It has grown over the years lol. I then moved to another small town where the post office was in a trailer. It has since upgraded to a brick building. But still no red light. It is long distance to call the towns on either side of us. I still don't get that. The kids were small before we got cable. Love leaving my window open at night and hearing all the "noise". Waking up to birds singing is the best. I tend to forget to lock the doors. My husband comes home and locks everything up tight. Ruthy, I would absolutely love to win a copy of one of your books! You bring the small town to life!

  21. There is something special about living in small towns. When I lived in Utah I was at a little league ball game where some of my students were playing. I looked over at the bleachers for the other ball field and spotted Donny Osmond watching a game. There was no media or fans. he was just an ordinary person living an ordinary life.

    I have lived in both big cities and small towns. I prefer the small towns.

    In my reading I enjoy the variety, but there is something about the small town life that draws me into the story. In the books I have typed the end, all take place in a small town. I guess that says something about me.

    I would love to be entered for a copy of your book, Ruthie.

  22. Glynna, I agree... I grew up in Rochester, but in a pretty neighborhood, very middle class, blue-collar.

    Parks, recreation, baseball teams, corner stores. All the elements of little towns that we love.

    But also the downside of folks who didn't want their kids hanging with the poor kids on the block, and made that clear, so that makes it easy to hint at the negative elements of everyone knowing our business... So I kind of transcribe all of the good, the bad and the poignant into new stories!!! And I love doing it!

    You need more than cake or pie to celebrate that milemarker!!! Maybe a parade down your small-town street?

    I had to laugh about the husband who locked all the doors. That's me. Even though my husband grew up in Temple City, CA, near L.A., everybody knew everybody in that town.

    Now me, I still check all the doors at night to make sure they're locked because Mike unlocks every door in the house when he's outside!! Really?

    I've lived in too many bad neighborhoods in my life. It used to drive Mike crazy because I'd lock the car doors when I parked it in a closed garage and then lock the door to the garage. LOL

    1. Lol! I do the same locking the car in a locked garage thing!

  24. Deb H, when I was helping Sr. Maria of the Sisters of St. Joseph make jam last week, we were talking about those changes and how they're not good for kids... how parents jump all over a bus driver or a teacher or a coach instead of following through with lessons on respect and demeanor.

    Respect is clutch in an open society.

    I would have NEVER talked back to Sr. Maria.... First she was brilliant and I thought that was AMAZING!!!!! Second.... she was tough as nails, LOL!

  25. Cindy, I'm laughing at the fireworks stand!!! YES!!!! :)

    And I will be putting the UPS man in a book.

    And I love the sweet atmosphere that small towns give off.... and how in a story if it isn't a sweet vibe, my characters can CHANGE IT.

    This is not like Yankees going down South and trying to change things, mind you... Because I've seen those "We Don't Care How They Did It In New York" bumper stickers, LOL!

    We Yankees are a pushy lot!

  26. Sally Shupe, I love those words! How fun, to see that little town through your eyes. I'm delighted, reading it!

    And laughing at hubby closing everything up tight. :)

    I'm tucking your name in, and thank you for your kind words!!!

  27. Wilani, I love the Donny Osmond story!

    You know, there are towns like that all over. In Maryland, where a bunch of big league ball players raise their kids to play ball.

    Walt Mussell has shared some great stories with me about a famous pitcher who coaches in GA... and while some folks see a kindly old man talking with players, we recognize the Hall of Famer among us.

    I love it when towns make it okay for the famous to mingle with the normals.

    That's how it should always be.

  28. Barbara, it's so hard to change those habits!!! And the minute you do, some crazy kid will pop in your front door and cart away your laptop to get some black market med....

    And then you're mad at yourself for being trusting!!!!

    A million books.


    I can't.

    But the numbers are there and I cannot say how thrilled I am and how thankful to God and Melissa Endlich and Love Inspired and Natasha Kern who has helped turn a blushing career into a blooming one.... I don't know what I'd do without her.

    She's amazing.

    1,000,000 AND COUNTING!!!!!! :)

  29. Congratulations Ruthy on a MILLION BOOKS SOLD, what an amazing accomplishment! You've taken the gift God has given you and run with it, you go girl!!! (Multiple exclamation points are allowed for this, I looked it up ;)

    I love the idea of small town life. Living in the suburbs with a mom who didn't drive I always felt like I lived in one. Our world revolved around school, church and the neighborhood. We stayed out all day in the summer playing, riding bikes, building forts. We'd come in for lunch or pack one to go on an adventure. We stayed out until the street lights came on and played freeze tag. Such good nostalgic memories.

    I'm on countdown waiting for Her Unexpected Family to come out. Can't wait to find out how Emily gets her HEA. I love the cover, so appealing!

    I love your picture by your new rock garden and that your a Gilead author. Is there no mountain to hard for you to climb? I think not. I'm so happy for all your success! Now pass me a piece of that yummy looking pie please.

  30. Good morning, Ruthie!

    Congratulations on selling 1 million books! That's quite a milestone. Love your Fourth of July pie. Keep up the good work and thanks for being part of my small hometown at Seekerville.

  31. Congrats, Ruthy, on selling ONE MILLION books!!!!
    What a beautiful pie......too pretty to cut and eat!

    I love being a part of Seekerville and want to be entered for Book 2 (loved the first one)!

    Hope the Herne reunion turns out well!

  32. Ruthy, love your idea. How about a Seeker and Villagers Boxed Set?

  33. Fun post, Ruthy! I do love writing about small towns, especially if I made them up and can add the residents and businesses at my choosing. I've had fun with a minor recurring character in my Flowers of Eden series--Joe, the guy who runs the general store. Just enough of a busybody to inject a little humor.

    BARBARA, I'm with you on locked doors! I just cringe when I walk by the front door and notice Project Guy or a visiting family member left it unlocked. And years ago we learned the hard way about leaving garage side-entry doors and the cars inside unlocked. One of our ancient 3-pound cell phones was in the car, along with some loose change for the tollway, and one morning we went out to find both the phone and the money gone. And the backyard gate (which I ALWAYS kept locked but somebody happened to also leave it unlocked that night) standing ajar.

  34. Oh I have a LOT of FUN with small towns!!

    I met a friend (Jessica), & we thought we might be cousins! Her dad was my uncle's cousin. But, my uncle is my mom's sister's husband and not a blood relative. So even though we weren't cousins, we decided sisters in Christ was just as good!

    I'm at a funeral standing with my cousin talking to one of her FB friends. My aunt comes up & tells us we are all cousins! We had no idea!

    My mom Always said "Be careful where you go & what you do. Someone will see you!" Then I go to a wedding & get caught Dancing by my mom's Baptist cousins that I didn't even recognize! (They didn't care, but I was just a little bit embarrassed! But it was only the Cupid Shuffle after all!)

    And yes, most of that is going in my book!!! :) :)

    1. Sounds like our family in Texas! Almost everyone we meet is 'connected'!

  35. I enjoy reading about small towns. They always sound like a great place to live. I enjoy nostalgia, too.

    Cate's comment about people in small towns who pray for the ambulance because they probably know the person involved reminded me of when I was teaching in a small town. Any time there was a siren, all the students got up and ran to the window to see where it was going because they would know who it was.

    On another note, in that same small town, I lived in an apartment that looked out over the fire department. One day when the fire siren blew, I was looking down at the fire trucks leaving, wondering where the fire was. Even when someone started pounding on my door, I still hadn't figured out it was in my building. In fact--the apartment next to mine. Fortunately, they got the fire out quickly.

    Please enter me in the drawing.

  36. And CONGRATULATIONS to Erica Vetsch!! You are Amazing!!

    And to RUTHY!! I'm trying to picture 1 Million Books!! We should figure out how big of a Library we would need to hold 1 Million Books! It would have to be HUGE!!! Seriously! I would like to know!!! :)

  37. RUTHY, Congratulations on selling one MILLION books!! I'm in awe! Thanks for sharing the patriotic desserts and all the apt, fun descriptions of the value of small town settings.

    I love reading and writing small towns! The inhabitants are knitted together by a shared history, by proximity, by shared ideals. Toss in some quirky characters to up the fun and ease the trouble. When there's trouble folks pull together. Or they cause more trouble. LOL In the book I'm writing the hero remembers that all moms fed, doctored or disciplined any child nearby, whether theirs or not. Not sure that would fly today.


  38. A million books sold! Congratulations, Ruthy! Wonderful to think how many lives you are reaching with your writing.

    I like to write small towns because I get to invent them and because they're what I know. I enjoy reading about small towns -- and especially a series of books about the same town -- because I get to know the characters, which means the writer gets to surprise me when they do something out of character. Having grown up with small towns, I appreciate the brighter side of the reality that's shown in the books I read.

    Years ago we ran a feature in the local newspaper titled something like "You Know You're In a Small Town When ..." My favorite was, "You know you're in a small town when there's no reason to use your car's signals -- everybody knows where you're going anyway."

    Nancy C

  39. I live in a small village in the middle of big city. My Mail carrier and UPS man know me and we chat. I love small towns. I think deep down we all want to be known.

    Congratulations on your new release. Please put me in the drawing.

  40. P.S. That pie is beautiful. Not too beautiful to slice into and eat :-) but beautiful.

    Nancy C

  41. What a delightful post! I grew up in a small town. After one census was done, the welcome sign said we had a population of 666. You can imagine how well THAT went over in a small town. Apparently, they found a missing person, because within a month it was changed to 667, lol! We had one flashing red light, 1 gas station that closed at 6 and 1 small convenience store...and 2 feed stores to support all the farmers and ranchers. I had 13 people in my graduating class, but we weren't the smallest in our area. We played basketball against one school that only had 4 kids in a class.

    Anyway, I love visiting big cities, but I'm always glad to come home to my small town. Ruthy, can't wait to try your Independence Pie!

  42. Ruth Logan Herne said...
    I've had frogs and peepers and toads singing all night outside my windows, it's like living in a forest...and then the birdsong at 4:30 AM.... So fun!

    I so identify with this, Ruthy. We have small towns all around and one big city, which is a great resource for museums, etc. When our city friends visit, they always remark about how noisy the night is -- crickets, toads, frogs, night birds, windmill slapping, coyotes howling. They do, however, like seeing all the lightning bugs :-)

    Nancy C

  43. Great post, Ruth! I've tried writing stories about the big city life and heroes and heroines who live in glitzy, glamorous locations, but each time I failed miserably. The only way of life I know is growing up and living in a small town, and so that is what I choose to write about. My favorite heroes are from communities where everyone knows your name and which family you belong to. These heroes are humble, hard working, and passionate. Not only do I love writing about them, but I love reading about them too. When I browse for new books, I always look for those with small town story lines. They are my favorite - always will be. :)

  44. Tracey!!!! Thank you so much for being part of this today! And I hear you about your neighborhood in the burbs. Mine was just like that, only in Rochester and can you imagine anyone calling the police or the sheriff because a ten-year-old was outside playing????

    OH MY STARS, they kicked us out of the house and said come back when you hear the 5 o'clock whistle at Kodak!!!!


    Thank you for the congrats on the books, it's unbelievable and yet.... SO STINKIN' MUCH FUN!!! I can't believe that I've reached a point where I'm doing exactly what I love to do: Make up stories and get paid to do it! #bonus!!!!

    Use all the exclamation points you'd like to, I sure am!


  45. Nancy! Our lightning bugs started about 3 days ago, and they're blinking up the night! It's so funny, the chorus of sounds, the gazillion tiny pinky-nail sized toads and tree frogs just out of the water...(with legs!!!!) and a few bats flying around the farm light for good measure! What an amazing world we live in!

    I do invite some of my little friends with ponds and flowers and shade because I like them living close by.... and I hung two decorative bird houses (I lied, Mandy hung them!) and they're FULL right now with finches! So I have finch song surrounding the back yard fire pit, and it's music to my ears.

    We are so blessed.

  46. Renee, you cutie, I love being part of your Seekerville town! Seekerville rocks the big Kahuna, and I love that this delightful little blog has offered home, heart and health to so many writers....

    I love a good gathering spot!

    And thank you for the congrats. They mean the world to me.

  47. Jackie Smith... honey.... no pie is too cute to eat!

    I promise you that when I make this year's version, I will cut it and eat it, because it is soooooo good!


    And thank you!!! I love that I can share this delightful news over here in Seekerville and we can all Snoopy dance together. I love good news.... it makes the tough days for all of us a whole lot more doable if we learn to just smile at the Lord and celebrate good times. He is good!!!

  48. HI RUTHY, this is spot-on and it's what everybody wants. Whether they realize it or not. I read about half and half, city stories and small-town stories, and it's interesting to me that even in the city ones, people tend to form community because they have to. I lived in downtown Boston as a young woman, and if you don't have community you don't survive. So people will tend to make friends with a neighbor, or the barista or the person who sells you your morning paper. I see that reflected in the city stories I read. But small towns are more fun, although it's easy to drift into cliché. One of the small-town series I really enjoyed was Cathleen Armstrong's Last Chance series, about the fictional Last Chance, New Mexico. (She has a great diner waitress, Juanita Sheppard, check her out.) Of course I also love Kirkwood Lake and would return at the drop of a, well, you know. I was one of the people who mourned Charlie but I understand why you allowed him to die, this world is not our home of which I am reminded daily.
    Good post, RUTH, and congrats on all the books.
    I'm on vac so may pop in later.
    Kathy Bailey

  49. I also agree with GLYNNA. Writing about city life can be more unwieldy, you have to have a reason for people being there. But a small-town sheriff (or waitress) is automatically at the forefront of what's going on.

  50. Myra, it's always a smack upside the head when someone doesn't respect property, locked up or not.

    And I love delightful characters in series, too.... I've gotten so many comments and reviews and e-mails about Hattie McGillicuddy in my historicals, because Hattie is the kind of woman we all want to be when we grow up... no matter how old we are! I love her!

    For those who don't know, Hattie is in the Sewing Sister Society stories featured in our historical collections... With This Spark, Home for Christmas, and Spring Into Love.... You meet Macy and Nellie and Ann as they come West to help Hattie in her sewing shop... but find love in the process!

  51. Jana, have you seen that commercial about the two young adults meeting at a wedding, therefore avoiding being sweethearts when she moves to his town???


    I did not allow my children to date anyone from Hilton.... because we are all related on Dave's side and I'm not even kidding... So we had to import!!!!

  52. Sandy Smith, that's a whole lot of small town curiosity and love going on there... and I love the fire in the place next door and you had no clue... Thank heavens for our first responders.

    Gosh, I love those guys.

  53. Jana..... ISN'T IT SO EXCITING??????? I AM PSYCHED!!!!!!!!!!!

    Ruthy is happy dancing in the front yard!!!!!

  54. Janet, it wouldn't and more's the pity on that! I say, give 'em a swat and send 'em off to bed without their supper!

    "Where the Wild Things Are"


    Janet, if you look firmly at someone's kid, you get sass from some parents, so I bet it wouldn't fly in lots of places, but it would here!

  55. RE people falling all over each other to fall in love...they're probably doing it anyway, they just don't necessarily have a writer zeroing in on their courtship.
    Another series I like is Lauraine Snelling's "Red River" series. We see the town of Blessing, N.D. grow up around two pioneer families, and we see how the people learn to care for one another. Snelling, like Ruthy, doesn't shy away from the normal rhythms of life: people are born and they die. And Blessing is there for them.
    I think we can best portray God's working in a close-knit community, whether it's city, country, a military base or, drum roll, the Oregon Trail. You just need a place to base people out of. I do have one series set in the city (NYC, you can't get more city than that), and the action takes place in and around a settlement house in Hell's Kitchen, so there's a built-in population to bounce off each other.
    I am on vac this week and hope to catch up on my writing.

  56. Nancy, I'm laughing at the signal remark!!! WE find that particular habit is not just in small towns...


    A whole lot of people forget that they have SIGNALS.

    And most of them look O-L-D.

    This does not bode well!

  57. I'm right in there with everyone else. I love reading about small towns! Thanks to all who contributed to help me understand why. :-)

  58. TINA got it right when she mentioned "Cheers." That's an example of city people finding community, and boy did they need it.

  59. I've romanticized small town life ever since I was a kid. I still think it's the ideal place to live even though I've only lived in a city. I just imagine that it's got to be so much better in a small town -- I mean all those books I read can't be wrong!

    The sense of community is what appeals to me. And the slower pace...not that I don't think country folk aren't busy. I guess it's that frantic long commute that puts everyone on edge in the city and makes it seem we're so much busier.

    You keep writing small town (or big city) stories and I'll keep reading 'em, Ruthy. Congrast on being a book millionaire!

  60. KayBee I hope you have a great and productive week. I love weeks where I can focus on the story and not be on the run, but around here it's mostly on the run.... Thank heavens for overnight.

    I don't know what I'd do without pre-dawn hours.

    I love NYC stories.

    I love big city venues. I love big city cop shows and the glamour and the pathos of big cities.

    But the poignancy of small town, U.S.A pulls me in!!!!

  61. Meghan, I concur!!!!! I loved seeing what these guys came up with!


    I LOVE THIS!!!!

    Kav, you've coined a phrase! Go you!

    I am making you a promise today: I'll keep writing.


  63. RUTHY, you and I are old fashioned, at least when it comes to discipline. My kids grew up in a suburban neighborhood where all the moms kept an eye out but didn't get embattled in kid stuff. No tattling to the other moms. No running interference. Kids were free to figure it out. We're still spending time with friends from the old neighborhood. Our 4th of July picnic has been going on for over 45 years. I need to make that pie for the picnic. Sigh. But know I won't. You're the baker, not me.

    How do you get it all done? Are you guzzling those caffeine drinks?


  64. RUTHY, LOVE this post because it's really fun to talk about small towns and why they are so appealing.

    I love quirky characters, so to me, it seems like it's sooooo much easier to put quirky characters in small towns and have them come off lovable. Seems like when you put quirky a big city, it can come off more cynical, like a crazy, weird, or odd person. That's why I am SO thrilled we moved to a small town ... ;)

    Believe it or not, that's what I loved about my O'Connor saga. Because although they lived in a big city (Boston), they were in a small Irish neighborhood that was actually the heart of Irish America at the time, and since I spent most of my time within the family, it actually was like a small town of O'Connors, each quirky in their own right. :) So in essence, even though the O'Connors lived in Boston, the family was my small-town setting, per se. :)

    And I am still blown away by over a million books, Ruthy -- AMAZING!!


  65. Ruth, my jaw hit the desk...MILLION books sold?! Wowzers!!! That's cool! Congratulations!

    As a reader, I love small towns where I can "fit in" with the story and get lost. This post reminded me of an older series by Vonetta Bright and Nancy Moser called the Sister Circle and The Potclub Club series by Eva Marie Everson and Linda Evans Shepherd.

    As a writer, I find my stories go between small and large towns. I'm a big city girl transplanted to a small town and it's been a huge adjustment. I still lock my car, in the garage, and lock the garage. Giggle. But raising kids in a smaller community has been nice in many ways too. Especially with driving teenagers. It's at those times I really don't miss big city traffic.

  66. Congrats on your success, Ruthy! I'm so proud of you. A million books in print. Isn't that simply delightful!!!

    Sorry I'm late. I've been catching up on emails and business stuff...and renewing my RWA and ACFW memberships! Lots to do after being away for a bit.

    Loved your post today with all the input from friends we know and love. So true about the lure and charm of small towns. You do them so well.

    However, I actually enjoy writing about life in the city. Nodding to what Julie said about forming a smaller community within the larger metro area. One of my favorite books to write was MIA: Missing in Atlanta, about a youth shelter in the tougher part of inner city Atlanta. I keep thinking another story might spring from that backdrop.

    Military posts are small town, though, and I loved writing about Fort Rickman and neighboring Freemont. So both worlds have merit, but I agree that readers find a happy place in that small town setting.

    And I'm with you and Cate on praying when a siren sounds. Started doing so as a child and will continue as long as I'm around. :)

  67. I grew up in a small town & raised my children in a small town.. BUT in retirement, I'm so happy in a larger town with a grocery store :)
    I'd love to read another of Ruthy's books..
    congrats Ruth.. over a million books, WOWZAA!!

  68. I live in the smallest of small towns.
    I once...was in a neighboring town...and the UPS guy came up to me on the street and gave me a package for my husband...addressed by the business name...which he usually delivered to my husband's brother's house.

    And he was waiting for me. He recognized my car.

    Get all those jumps?

    That's a small town.

    I always say (I do always say this) The Best thing and the Worst thing about a small town is: Everybody knows

    If you lose a family member? Have a car wreck? Have an illness or have a triumph, everybody knows and tells you they are sorry or they are there with food and they celebrate with you.
    If you screw up, speeding ticket, dent, get fired, in some way make a fool of yourself......everybody knows. Not much privacy in a small town.

  69. One Million Books. Is that not the most amazing, thrilling, joyous thing?

    YAY RUTHY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  70. While I was reading the post I kept thinking : Small Town = Amish

    These things exist but few people are involved. But it's like a dream people have of simpler times, safety, neighbors you can love without God even having to command it!

  71. I've loved growing up and living in the suburbs of a big city, but stories set in small towns appeal to me. I like the sense of closeness.

    Congrats on all your success Ruthy!

  72. I have lunch after Church most Sundays with my mom...and My Cowboy and two or three (or seven) other folks from my church.
    Local gas station/mini-mart...

    And there's a house right outside the window of where we sit that used to belong to Dorothy S. Well, for years, I mean TEN OR TWENTY years...Dorothy went to live with her daughter at least 20 years ago....so it was sold to another lady, Marilyn.

    So every week at some point in our visit and lunch one of the ladies asks, "Has Dorothy's house sold yet?"

    And we all either shrug or say no.

    Like those 20 years empty and/or with Marilyn residing there don't count.

    Easy for us to get that, tricky for a newcomer. One with the gall to think of that as Marilyn's house.

  73. Heidi all my kids now live in Urban areas, mostly in the suburbs. And they LOVE IT! They start listing the short comings of a small town so FAST the brats.

    But the main reason most young people don't stay is simple. Jobs.
    So many of the people living in my small town drive away from town to work. There just are no good jobs.

    OTOH I heard of a house (admittedly an old small one, but still...) selling for six thousand dollars recently. You don't need that good of a job for that.

  74. Now I live in a city. But I used to live in small towns in Vermont which look a lot like one of the pictures Ruthy posted. I often feel very nostalgic for them. Everyone knew each other. It would take all morning to get out of the IGA since you always ran into friends. A great place to raise kids.

  75. Hi Ruth:

    Love to read romances set in small towns! However, there is more to be said about smal towns than is dreamt of in romance philosopy.

    A great many people, who say they live or have lived in small towns, actually lived miles away on a farm. They would not want to live within the town limits.

    It has also been said that New York City is not really a big city. It's actually one thousand small towns jammed border to border.They're called neighborhoods.

    Also, before everyone gets carried away about small town romances, remember this: Harlequin's best selling line, Presents, is about big city setting, international travel, billionaires, Mediterranean Alpha males, and the splendor of living a glamorous night life!

    Moreover, no matter how well written, I am not all that enamored with living in a small town. True, I'd love to live in Canyon Springs; however, I'm not that excited about living in Mule Hollow or Dry Creek. I favor small towns on small Caribbean islands!

    Can we get into a 'futures' drawing for the book that comes after "Back in the Saddle"? Old Colt gave up straddles for saddles. What will Nick do to match that?


  76. Great post Ruthy So you. smile. My favorite small town gal.

    I love your stories because you really do bring small town to life. I love Glynna's small town series because they are in Arizona which I know. But the element of small town is universal no matter what part of the country. And I think city folk kind of idealize the seeming simplicity of a small town and long for that simplicity. Even though we know that everywhere has its own set of problems. LOL

    But escape is a major appeal to romance novels. We all long for and want that HEA.

    Great article and am laughing hysterically at the photo of you on the camel. What a tourist LOL Hugs

  77. Becky, that is sage.... We all want to be known. I totally agree, although the Emily Dickinson style writer seems quite content in his/her cave. But that small town "knowing" is clutch, isn't it?

  78. Julie, you're so right! Family sagas can become their own small town entity by virtue of the wide-spread family and the connections from one book to the next. And they're so fun to write.

    I love delving into family connections, seeing what puzzle pieces are warped, which are missing and which just need a little TLC to fit into their spot.

    We're all parts of the greater puzzle.

    And a MILLION.

    Oh my stars, who'd a thunk it????

  79. Janet Dean, YES to the caffeine and the discipline... I can't imagine what folks are thinkin' half the time.


  80. Sharee, I've found that the small town is just about the perfect place to raise a family, and I love that our small town is next to a big town so all the things I need are within a 20-minute drive.

    That's a plus!

    The best part, though, is getting to know all the townies. The regulars. The folks who mozy up to the diner counter, have a cuppa and nurse it for 90 minutes of conversation.

    I love those people!

    I love that you can measure the town "flavor" by how many are at the coffee bar daily vs. how many are closing down the real bar at 2:00 AM....

    And if you go to a small town and it has 6 bars....

    Keep driving.

  81. Debby, I love the city settings. "Try, Try Again", "Red Kettle Christmas" and "All Dressed Up in Love" are in cities, and it was so much fun to grab that timing and the pressure and sounds and doll them all up in a romance.

    And for a suspense, I find cities even more believable. There is so much action going on, all around you! So many twists and turns.

    I loved MIA: Missing in Atlanta. Great story. Great author!!!!

  82. Deanna, hey!!!! I love seeing you over here!!! And I'm tucking your name in for a book!

    Thank you for your kind words. They made me smile!!!! House full of kids this afternoon, busy, loud, fun and crazy...

    This makes me glad the writing got done in the A.M. before life took off running!

    I'm so glad you stopped in!

  83. Love this post, RUTHY! I was born and raised in Fort Worth, but moved to a small town just after I turned 30. I love my adopted hometown! I identify with so much of what was said here - praying when you see/hear an ambulance, (or a helicopter - almost always a med-evac situation) the UPS man delivering a package to me at work (no matter what the address says) and everybody watching out for each other's kids. I wouldn't move back to a big city for anything.

    Congratulations on the million book milestone!!!!! That is certifiably awesome :-) So happy for you!!!

  84. Mary, that's the plus and the minus... But mostly plus because it's just so much fun for folks to jaw on what's going on!


    Back-yard gossip.

    Over the fence.

    Coffee counter.

    Folks'll talk, one way or another. My goal is to seriously limit the bad stuff they can say about me.... while celebrating the GOOD STUFF!

    Like that ONE MILLION books!


  85. Stephanie Sullivan, how nice to see you!

    I love those heroes, too. The slightly understated ones, like Matt Cavanaugh from YULETIDE HEARTS which I just found out is being re-released in NOVEMBER to the subscriber service/book club for Love Inspired.

    How fun to have a whole new audience for that sweet book.... and what a fave it is of so many, so I'm over the moon that they're doing a re-release. It's my FIRST RE-RELEASE!!!!

    Another squeal of delight!

  86. Mary, you're right about the small town and Amish "simple life"....

    I'm not an Amish lover, at all, though. I get frankly suspicious of faith tenets that forbid people or don't encourage them to spread God's love and the Gospel message freely. So right there it marks a big blotch on most Amish stories because I do believe that sharing our love freely among all people doesn't disclude the Amish.

    I prefer the American and English version of small towns, with that spontaneous warmth and goofy poignancy and folks acting as normal as can be expected.

    Now I'm not saying this to offend Amish story tellers or the readers... it's just too surreal for me.

    BUT if you give me a "When Calls the Heart" or Love Comes Softly movie....

    The pioneer west....

    LOVE IT.

    Those folks worked hard, too, and spread the word of God all the time.

    I think I just don't like anything that deliberately blocks folks from taking part.

    There's already too much of that in life.

  87. Heidi, I'm with you... but I think I'd do fine in a city, too.

    I'm comfortable enough to embarrass my boys in NYC, so that's saying something.

    And Zach was amazed at how friendly people are in Scottsdale, how they just randomly talk to each other because not too many folks in New York City do that!

    Unless you're a tourist like me!!!!

  88. Laura, I loved visiting Fort Worth with Sandra a few years ago! So fun! (She was pretty sure I was going to kill them on the drive over, but no one died!!! And we got to the stockyards and had so much fun!!!!)

    But as much as I love to visit, I love coming home to small town upstate and green grass and leaves and thick trees and lightning bugs!

    You can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl!

  89. Vince.... I think the rural/small town feeling is indicative of the area. Even on the farm, we all belong to the town, and the number of people actually living in the town or village limits are kind of scant, usually....

    But I do agree about the outer boroughs of NYC being neighborhood rich! And historically, it was even more true. Now, new builds and tear-downs and re-habs have changed a lot of that, but it's nice to have neighborhood stores instead of mega-shopping complexes.

    Nick's story is on its way to the printers, and I love, love, love it....

    Because he might not be the prodigal, but being the guy who stayed the course and watched big brother get the glory has got to stick in your gullet.

    So Nick has his work cut out for him.

    Did you figure out his romantic interest?

    Do not say yes.

    She wasn't in the first book on purpose.

    And I love her, she is a favorite heroine and I cheered for her every step of the way.

    I hope you love it, but no copies yet!

  90. Mary, my kids are all in the burbs, too. Which I guess I am, too, even though Hilton is a small town and we're on a farm nearby.

    But it's considered a suburb of Rochester, so I'm a HYBRID!!!!!!

    My kids said the best push toward a great education was THE FARM!

    So we both have brats.


  91. Yay for the Yuletide Hearts re-release! That was my very first Ruthy book that had me hunting down and reading every other Ruthy book printed. I love being counted in your million books.

  92. Vince is right about the Billionaire thing. And those are all city people.
    Billionaires and Cowboys seem to be the big thing right now.
    And babies born in litters!!!

    And I suppose there ARE books about Billionaire Cowboys, but frankly, like Big Foot, I consider them to be a myth. Cows and Billions just do not ever go together.
    Well, maybe if they find OIL on your land I guess???!!!

  93. Congratulations, Ruthy!!! 1,000,000 is a lot of zeros and a lot of books!!!

    I love living in a small rural farming community. We lived in town for 9 years, population 1000 (according to the sign, which is probably wrong since the one major employer left town).

    The scariest thing that ever happened (aside from natural disasters) was when the sports teams would ride by on the firetrucks after each momentous victory. Let me tell you, the collective screams of 20+ grade schoolers is a terrifying sound that will bring you right out of a dead sleep especially when accompanied by flashing lights!

    Now we live 2 miles north of town and my husband travels 15 minutes to the next small town (my hometown, population 2000) to work.

    Both of our family trees stretch back in this county for generations (no intertwined branches though, Praise the Lord!) I would love to move away to another small town far away from here because we tend to forget there's a whole big world out there beyond the county line.

  94. Tracey, what a stinkin' nice thing to say!!! I love that story, I love the nuances of it, and how Matt comes through the way a marine would.

    Gosh, he's amazing! :)

    I was so happy to get that e-mail, happy dancing in upstate!!!!

  95. Mary, that's true, and Vince is right about the push for billionaire's (like a million just isn't enough anymore!!!) and triplets.... So stinkin' cute....

    But give me a tried and true, in love with the land cowboy.

    Oh be still my heart!!!!

    I don't need billions. Just a true heart, true love.


  96. Beth Erin, you raised a great point that I see from both sides. When we're immersed in our small town, we don't always have the insight to see the whole big picture because we're surrounded...

    And I've found the same is true in big cities. When you're used to the city, and you get out of your element, it feels beyond strange, and sometimes just plain wrong.

    It's a big difference! I think that's why I love to visit the cities while hugging the town/towns, and I love going on research trips because it recharges my batteries to move beyond what I've been seeing, doing lately.

    Sometimes we need a good shake-up!!!!

  97. I grew up in a mid-size city in Ohio but our neighborhood community was close. Everybody knew everything about everybody. You were disciplined by everyone who caught you and lectured by those who heard about it. Sick or grieving neighbors and those who hit on hard times had food, rides, medicine, money for utilities, babysitters...attempting to pay someone was an insult! Even the 'bad people' contributed and the mean people' helped...they'd grumble but they helped. My Front Porch Divas series is based on a community like that. We need more of them!!

  98. CONGRATULATIONS, RUTHIE!!!! One million books sold! We need to set some fireworks off for you! Whoo Hoo!!!!

  99. Wow. A million books! Way to go. Congratulations!
    BTW, I live in a small town and love it. We recently moved from the NE corner to the SW corner, a whole ten blocks apart. And there is a girl in town who really needs to be fixed up with the right guy. I suggested a certain one--I think they'd be great together. She only shrugged, so I told her I was going to write a book about them getting together. She told me to write the book first, then she'll read it and decide if she wants to get to know him.
    I guess it's time to get to work.

  100. I love small-town stories because I grew up in a small town and still live in a small town.

  101. A HUGE Congratulations on selling your 1 millionth book! What an awesome accomplishment! Doing the happy dance for you!

    Loved you discussion and the comments on small towns and why readers enjoy books set in small towns. I grew up in a small town and we did leave our doors unlocked, at least during the day, but frequently at night. Neighbors looked out for each other, and when you went on vacation, they got your mail and picked the vegetables in your garden so they wouldn't rot while you were gone.

    I moved away from this small town for a number of years, but moved back almost 9 years ago. The small town is gone and we have a busy town where we don't even know our neighbors and we keep the doors locked all the time. I miss the small town.


  102. I love writing in small towns! It's almost easier, ebcause everyone knows everbody else!