Wild Mint Tea on March first, I've had the privilege of being interviewed on or writing guest posts for dozens of blogs. Yes, dozens. It's been a wee bit crazy, quite frankly.
Readers are loving Claire and Noel, and that is so gratifying to an author! The feedback has confirmed what I suspected, that this story is "better" than the first book in the Farm Fresh Romance series, Raspberries and Vinegar. By better, I mean that Claire is a sweeter person than Jo, and readers find it easier to root for her.
A question I often get asked is why I write stories set in Idaho when I live in Canada. There are levels to the answer.
One is that if Green Acres Farm were a real place, I could drive to it in twenty minutes if border traffic was light. Yes, my home in southeastern BC is that close to Idaho. The landscape and climate are the same as home, which is very helpful to me being as I write about farming and gardening.
Another answer is that when the Farm Fresh Romance stories began to form in my mind several years ago, Americans, who form the largest market share of English-speaking readers, often passed up foreign-set books in preference for the more familiar. This is, in fact, one of the reasons the International Christian Fiction Writers blog was formed: to help spread the news that authors from other lands might offer great stories set in other places, and weren't something to be feared or avoided!
To make my series the most appealing to a wide readership (which included agents and editors), I chose to set my stories in the USA. Ultimately I signed a contract with a small new American publishing house, Choose Now Publishing, who might've been open to a Canadian setting. As well, the doors to foreign settings have started to crack open. I chose not to submit the two completed novels in the series to an international overhaul but to stick with the way they'd been written in the first place.
In an exchange with Janice Dick, a fellow Canadian author who writes historical fiction, she said she had to choose "royalty over loyalty." The phrase stuck with me. I'd done the same. In an effort to have the best chance to actually sell my novels, I'd chosen that as more important than loyalty to a Canadian setting.
I make other choices for the "royalty" reason as well. I make sure my contemporary romances are written in both the heroine's and hero's point-of-views. I write to a standard romance formula, finding it doesn't strangle my stories at all. I make sure there's a happily-ever-after, which I prefer anyway. I make sure the word count is within the acceptable range for my genre.
God didn't give me "Canadian" stories. He gave me stories with universal topics and themes. The hope, the sense of belonging, the joy of being sought by God, the wonder of human love…these are all things that everyone can relate to. They're far more important to me than the little spot on the checklist that says where the story is set.
Sure, I have ideas for novels set in Canada. A couple are even written and waiting their turn for revision. Meanwhile, I have more contracted stories to write in the Farm Fresh Romance series…both because I want the royalties and because I want to reward the loyalties of my increasing fan base.
What about you? Do you find the setting as important to you as the themes, genre, and story line in a novel?
Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance and farm lit. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local food movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily ever afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters. Visit her website and blog to glimpse inside her world.
The second novel in Valerie's Farm Fresh Romance series, Wild Mint Tea, released March 1, 2014.