When I thought of using my real small town or even larger centers in the region, I felt stifled. I needed an idyllic place all the best bits of many small towns. Riverbend needed a park by the river and picturesque bridges. It needed a downtown core full of unique shops and eateries. It needed an outlying area of farms and ranches…after all, I write from a passion for locally grown real food.
I asked fans and friends on my Facebook author page for thoughts on what Riverbend needed to be like. I received all kinds of ideas, many of which are on my roughly drawn map of Riverbend. Very few made their way into the first novella, Secretly Yours, but more will be showcased in upcoming stories. Meanwhile, they give me the feeling of a well-rounded community and hopefully that will come through for my readers.
Farm Fresh Romance series is set in Idaho, not far south of Riverbend, BC. It has an American setting because, when I wrote it, I was aiming for the American market via an agent and a traditional publishing house. The first two books were published by a small house, and I don't see any point in rewriting the location to be set in Canada. I'm sure I'll write more stories set in the USA in the future, as some of the proposals I once wrote are American based and need to be set there.
However, writing a series set in Canada gives me a sense of deep satisfaction. Many facets of life are the same or very similar. In fact, I wrote only three distinctly Canadian things into Secretly Yours.
1. In Canada, we wear something called a tuque (rhymes with fluke). This is a knitted winter cap like a beanie or stocking cap. Secretly Yours takes place in winter, so the characters had to wear tuques!
2. I like to say all Canadians are bilingual, but not in the way you think. Many of us do not speak both English and French, but we do have a more than casual acquaintance with both imperial and metric measurements and temperatures. Thus the distances are shown in meters and kilometers, and the temperatures in Celsius. I tried to provide clues in text as to what that might mean to an "Imperial Speaker."
3. In British Columbia, our young drivers become qualified through a graduated licensing system. After passing a written exam, they receive a learner's permit. They drive only with an adult in the vehicle…and a large red magnet with a black L on it slapped on the back of the car to warn the populace! After a year, they may take a road test. If they pass, they become novice drivers for another year. Restrictions include a zero tolerance for speeding and alcohol. Oh, and they now drive with a large green magnet with a black N on it.
Because my heroine's sister has her learner's license (and Lindsey is her adult ride-along), these magnets came into play in the story. Some things are difficult to show without pulling the reader aside and actually explaining it to her!
I expect to release four more Riverbend novellas in 2015 (as well as the final 3 Farm Fresh Romances). Pinky Promise, my spring novella, is already complete in first draft, and the third novella, set in summer, is underway. Later in the year I'll write and release autumn and Christmas Riverbend novellas as well.
Would you like to enjoy a short winter romance? Check out Secretly Yours, available only as an e-book on Amazon.
Chef Lindsey Solberg agrees to cater the church's Valentine's Day fundraising banquet as a favor to her teen sister, but she's shocked to discover the bad boy from her high school days is now Riverbend's youth pastor. Seriously? How could he have changed that much? Nick Harrison has prayed for years for an opportunity to make amends. Now Lindsey's back in Riverbend and won't give him the time of day. What's a guy to do except leave a trail of gifts from a secret admirer?
Lindsey's heart takes a beating when she realizes the boy who was never good enough is now a far better man than she deserves.
Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. 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.
Valerie writes Farm Lit where food meets faith, injecting experience laced with humor into her stories. Her debut novel, Raspberries and Vinegar: A Farm Fresh Romance, was awarded Best Contemporary Romance published in 2013 by The Word Guild.