Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE


Joanne Kennedy is my guest and she's brought her Hooligans, a bit of small town Americana, and some fun conversations. Oh, let's not forget the tall dark cowboy!


Actually, like the song says, he's not that easy to forget...*contented sigh.




I love hearing from readers. But recently, I received an e-mail that gave me a stab of remorse.

“Your books make me want to move to a small town,” it said. “One where I can find a cowboy who will really love me and my three kids.”

I write about ranch life and small towns, celebrating old-fashioned values like community and caring. But was I raising readers’ expectations too high? There aren’t many storybook places in the real world—are there?

I’ve been living in the city for too long. It was time for a road trip—one that would confirm that the world I was writing about really existed. Loading my husband and the Hooligans into my trusty Subaru, I headed for the closest cluster of small towns.


The first town was proof that reality doesn’t always match the wishful world of fiction. It was November, so the bright sky of summer had changed to solid, wintry gray. The wind was cold and biting. A string of battered buildings huddled together in a crooked row beside a street pockmarked with holes and patched asphalt. There were no sounds except wind rattling dry sagebrush, and the harsh, lonely cry of a crow.







And I was encouraging people to believe this was some kind of romantic paradise.

Worse yet, I was hungry, and the only place to eat in the next town was the Longhorn Grocery and Cafe. You can usually judge a small-town eatery by the number of trucks parked outside—and there wasn’t a single one.



But it was early in the day. When noon struck, the place filled up quickly. And as the townspeople filed in, my world—the world of my novels—bloomed right before my eyes.
“Oh, you brought the boys!” the cook crowed as a middle-aged lady walked in. I turned, expecting to see a couple of kids, but instead two fragile elderly gentlemen stumped in, canes tapping. The crowd grew, and sure enough, everybody knew everybody else. Gossip and greetings filled the air. It was just like one of my books—except the dialogue was even better. Here’s a sample:

Lady #1: “What happened to you?”


Lady with Arm in Sling: “I fell downstairs. But at least I didn’t run over myself like Bob did.”


 Run over yourself? I thought. How do you do that?


 Gentleman #1: “He never learns. He left that pickup running while he went in the post office the other day. Says he puts it in park now, though.”


Gentleman #2: “That’s not as bad as Ed Simmons. He got hit by the school bus. Didn’t hurt him much, but he yelled at the driver. He said, ‘What’d ya hit me for? You know I turn here every day!’” 

By the time I finished my cheeseburger, my conscience was cleared along with my plate. These towns might look bleak from the street, but once you took the time to step inside, they’re full of life and love.



And I realized that it’s the bleakness, the hardship, and the challenge of living in this part of the world that brings these people together. Community is created by common interests and shared enemies like the weather and the wind.

So when you’re driving through small-town America, keep in mind that even in a place that looks hopeless on the outside, there’s life and love and family behind the lighted windows—just like in a romance novel.


Tall, Dark and Cowboy by Joanne Kennedy—In Stores November 2011
 
She’s looking for an old friend…

 In the wake of a nasty divorce, Lacey Bradford heads for Wyoming where she’s sure her old friend will take her in. But her high school pal Chase Caldwell is no longer the gangly boy who would follow her anywhere. For one thing, he’s now incredibly buff and handsome, but that’s not all that’s changed… 

What she finds is one hot cowboy…


 Chase has been through tough times and is less than thrilled to see the girl who once broke his heart. But try as he might to resist her, while Lacey’s putting her life back together, he’s finding new ways to be part of it. Excerpt




Joanne Kennedy is the author of three previous contemporary Western romances for Sourcebooks. She brings a wide variety of experience, ranging from chicken farming to horse training, to her sexy, spicy cowboy stories. She is a 2011 finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of American RITA© Awards, for One Fine Cowboy. Joanne lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where she is working on her next book, Cowboy Crazy (June 2012). 

For more information, please visit http://joannekennedybooks.com/.


16 comments:

~Sia McKye~ said...

Joanne, I love the pics. I've seen many a sight like this. When I was 12 we lived for a time in Wyoming and Cheyenne. That wind, wow.

Even here in Missouri, we have small town cafes and at PJ's you can find lots of pickups and gossip. Everyone chats and shares the gossip. It's nothing to see someone pick up their chair and plop it down at another table and share that gossip. Lot's of cross the room conversations. You hear everything there.

Of course, many of the ranchers bring their good ole boy selves down for a early morning coffee klutch--they be insulted to hear it called that, but it's true. Generally right after morning feedings/chores, have a cup or 5, but who's counting, right? Then head off to the feed store, bank, or the lumber/hardware store.

I'm glad to have you visiting with us again.

Jo Wake said...

It seems to me that Americans are a friendly bunch in small town areas. I lived in North Carolina for 12 years and had dozens of really close friends there.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Sia, thanks for inviting me to visit! I had to laugh when you reminded me of the rancher coffee clutch--you're right, they'd hate to hear it called that, but it's just like a hen party!
And you're right about the wind here. At least it's easy to clean out your pickup truck; just open both doors and let the wind sweep it out!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Jo, my husband's family is from South Carolina, and they're a great bunch! I love Southern small towns!

VA said...

Is it horrible to admit I like the relative anonymity of LA?

I like small towns in small doses. Everyone knows everyone--for better or worse--AND there's no escape. It's like living in a fishbowl. Heck! I don't even live an exciting enough life worth gossiping about, but as soon as I head into the wilds of small town life I feel the world closing in on me.

Maybe one without any family would work. Hmmm...

Btw. This does not effect in anyway my love of these stories.

VA said...

Yummy cover, Joanne.

James Rafferty said...

Hi Joanne. Great idea to take a road trip and spend time with people from a different area. One of the things I like about travel is the people watching and listening. Lots of surprises in store there and it's excellent background for a writer to store up and use later.

Joanne Kennedy said...

VA, I can understand how you feel. Cheyenne is really just a very large small town, and we all know each others' business. But I also know a lot of people are there for me if I need them, so it's more blessing than curse.

And yes, that's my yummiest cover yet! It's certainly gotten a lot of comments!

James, you're so right. Diners and general stores are the best places for eavesdropping, though coffee shops are pretty good too!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That is a tiny town...

Stephen Tremp said...

I don't read romance, but looking at these pics this could be the setting for a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child.

Tonya Kappes said...

HaHAHAA! Joanne, I'm from a small town and it sounds exactly how you described the locals. I moved away in my twenties and still go home to visit those little hole in the walls and catch up on the gossip. I have a series set in a fictitious small town, but the series is dedicated to my real small town. I love the coziness of it and my readers do too! Thanks for the smile today!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

It's like the show Cheers - where everybody knows your name.

Carol Kilgore said...

Nice to meet you, Joanne. Love your Hooligans. We have a pair, too - a blue heeler and a border collie.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Stephen, I love Lee Child's books! And yes, I could see Jack Reacher coming to some of these places.

Tonya, my books are based on a combination of a couple of real towns. It's hard to write about just one because people catch on, and then they know you're writing about them! Plus they start checking your geography:) Your books sound great - I'll have to check them out.

Diane, I always loved the small-town-in-the-city feeling of Cheers, and I think its popularity is from that same hunger for community that makes small town romance so popular.

Carol, the Hooligans say hello! I love blue heelers. There's an elderly, overweight, and rather smelly one in "One Fine Cowboy."

Joanne Kennedy said...

How could I forget to say that Stephen should try a romance novel! If you like Jack Reacher, you might like Laura Griffith's romantic suspense, or Brenda Novak.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Tonya, I checked out your books - they look terrific! Love the covers.