Location, Location, Location (Rox Delaney)

I was going to use a pretty picture of Sedan, Kansas, and then I got to thinking about what words I wanted to use to begin my blog post today.  I planned it to go something like this:

When I was 12 years old, my parents decided to move from not only the neighborhood in the city where I was born and had lived all my life up to that point, but from the city itself.  They chose a small town southwest of here, where my mother's family had traveled to from Bavaria, Germany, and settled in 1884-1886.  Because the town is only a twenty minute drive from the city, I'd spent holidays at family gatherings and a few summer weeks staying on my aunt and uncle's farm.  Still, except for a few cousins, I was a newcomer and a fairly dorky 7th-grader, but in spite of being a "new kid," it didn't take long to learn I was related to about 1/2 of the town.  I was HOME.

I lived there for almost thirteen years, before marrying and moving to a farm not far away and made sure that my daughters attended and graduated from the same high school I did.  After 24 years on the farm, I returned to the small town and took my daughters with me.  We lived there for another two years before we left, and I returned full circle to the city where I was born.

I've written books set in Montana and Louisiana, Texas and Kansas City.  But when I switched from Silhouette Romance to Harlequin American Romance, the first book I submitted took place in a small town modeled after the one where I'd spent my teen and early adult years.  The location of the next six books--a series I've come to think of as Hearts of Desperation--has moved south, out of Kansas and into Oklahoma, where the name of the town is different, but the heart of it is still much the same.  I've loved writing the series and revisiting my favorite characters, but I hadn't set out to write more than a couple of books.  Maybe three.  Or four.  And now it's six!

While it will be hard when the time comes to say goodbye to Desperation, there'll always be a little bit of it--and that small town where I went from child to grown-up--in each small town where my characters live and grow and love.

Yes, that really is a photo of the small town where I finished growing up.  Fall Festival 2010.

And if you'd like to see my idea of what Desperation, Oklahoma, is like and meet some of the people who inhabit it, check out Hearts of Desperation.  Oh, and the sixth book in the series, BACHELOR DAD, is available this month. ☺


Reese Mobley said...

Thanks for sharing your memories with us, Rox. There really is something special about small towns. Some of my best childhood memories were when I'd spend time with my grandparents in Newton. (Back then it was considered small.)

How did you come up with the name Desperation? And why Oklahoma?

Joan Vincent said...

Now everyone knows why your stories ring so true--you are writing what you know! I imagine the sense of community is the same in a small town as in the farming community I grew up in. Both are great places for kids to grow up and for talents to be fostered--as your writing shows. Thanks Rox.

Penny Rader said...

How cool that your family relocated from here from Bavaria. I love the way that word fits on my tongue. Bavaria. Has a richness to it.

And I'm also looking forward to reading more of your Desperation, OK, stories. May you have tons and tons of sales.

Frances Louis said...

What a wonderful post, Rox! Thanks for sharing with us! I grew up in a very small town too. Funny, on a recent visit, I took my kids to the cemetery so they could see their relatives...and we saw so much more. I had no idea that almost everyone in the graveyard had a German name and that the earliest grave was from the 1820s! I guess we both came form strong German roots!

Rox Delaney said...

Reese, I don't really know where I got the idea to name the town Desperation, although I did create a back story for why it was named that. Maybe I was desperate for a name?

The first two books were originally written almost 15 years ago, and there were two towns, neither named Desperation. LOL

As for why Oklahoma, I guess I chose it because I didn't want to follow the crowd and go with Texas, and Kansas just didn't feel right, so Oklahoma it was. And my second Silhouette Romance was set in Oklahoma. Strange, because I'm not a huge OU fan. LOL

Rox Delaney said...

Joan, I spent 24 years in a farming community near a town that had a population of maybe 125 on a good day. No need for an imagination, because the goings-on in some communities are better than any story we could make up. LOL

Rox Delaney said...

Penny, because I'm adopted, I'm not really related to all those cousins, but it never made much difference. I've spent hours and hours working on the family tree.

Then I learned that my birthfamily is Russian German. Or is that German Russian? Anyway, I have 27 first cousins.

Rox Delaney said...

Fran, I couldn't get away from my German roots if I wanted to. *grin*

What was really scary was discovering a few months ago that one of my daughters is married to a distant cousin in my birthfamily. That's what happens when you start poking around on ancestry.com. ;)

Small towns, like big cities, have their pros and cons. I'm happy where I am now, but I'm glad I spent those years in that small town, surround by family and friends.

Penny Rader said...

My mom was adopted, too. Family isn't always dictated by blood. When Mom was 5 she got to choose which baby would be her brother. A few years ago she found her biological brother. I found the cemetery where her biological mom and grandparents are buried. If I had tried the magic formula of keywords a year earlier, she could've met her biological aunt. Mom recently found out her biological sister is deceased. Mom was born in Oklahoma, which has made all this adoption search business quite difficult.

Rox Delaney said...

Penny, I'm glad your mom was able to find at least one member of her family. Oklahoma is a "closed" state, while Kansas is "open," which means that I was able to obtain my original (pre-adoption) birth certificate. There are only 5 or 6 states that allow that.

I met my birth uncle and his wife, and talked to my birthmother on the phone. The first was positive, the second not so much.

Melissa Robbins said...

Small towns can be really nice. I grew up in one in Maryland. The favorite ice cream shop downtown is still open.

Rox Delaney said...

Lucky you!! Every small town should have an ice cream shop. Back when I first moved to that small town, there was a drug store that had a fountain. There's a Pizza Hut on that corner now.

Desperation has The Sweet & Yummy Ice Cream Parlor. It's located in the recently restored historic Opera House. (No, there wasn't one where I grew up, but there are several in small towns in Kansas.)

Then there's the Chick-a-Lick Cafe. I have no idea where the name for that came from and laugh every time I type it. Most people from a small town know that the local cafe is the hot spot in town. Well, that and the tavern/bar. LOL

And people talk about world building for sci-fi. Ha!

Nina Sipes said...

It is funny about small towns as we don't have large ones around here, so a not as tiny town counts as large. The town I went to grade school in has everyone minding your business for you. My husband can't leave a sprinkler going on the grass overnight as someone will decide he must have forgot it and turns it off. I got a call that a rent house front door had to be closed every so often. I went and checked the empty house, (it is never locked and I keep the utilities on just in case someone wants to look at it to rent) and what did I find? New toilet paper and fresh water in the clean toilet. Nothing out of place. Someone had been using it for a potty stop and had forgotten to make sure the door was latched every time they left. I locked the door until the habit was broken though I really considered leaving it unlocked and putting up a sign to tell them to make sure the door latched when they leave. Who ever it was had done no damage and actually did me a favor by having fresh water in the bowl. Those can get pretty bad as water evaporates. My favorite story is about the gym window. Every few years some adventurous soul would talk a couple of buddies into breaking into the gym and playing basketball. The window latch was never actually locked because the adults were watching to see if it would net another potential leader of mischief. The kids never seemed to notice that when you turn on the lights the windows at the very top glowed. As soon as someone noticed the light, the kids were busted and had a stern talking to. This usually put them on the straight and narrow and singled them out as the next potential problem leader of misguided youth. The town would then keep a vigilant eye on them and no serious trouble ever ensued. Folks put them to work. The latch was never actually fixed and laid in wait for the next group, usually about four years apart. I smile whenever I think of that latch and the sneaky adults behind it. Small town.

Pat Davids said...

I, too, enjoy small town settings, but I've grown to be a city gal because I want my choice of Wal-Mart or Dillons, JCPenny or Dress Barn and I don't like to drive 40 miles to find a good seafood place. Good thing I can have it all in a book.