I can't remember why I chose Desperation for the name of the town or even when, but it worked well, once I started writing about it. You see, I happened to uncover a history behind the name.
In my first book set in Desperation, Jules Vandeveer, the heroine and a visitor to town, has encountered Tanner O'Brien, the hero of the story, in the local post office, and he's asked her to wait so he can walk with her. Because this is a romance, she does. :)
“So what do you think of our little town?”
Most of the downtown business area was spread out ahead of them and stretched almost two blocks. Buildings, mostly one-story, but a few with two, lined both sides of the street. Quaint and unique were the words that came to mind, as each connected building had a design and character of its own.
“It’s a very nice town. Pretty and charming. But I’m wondering...”
When she turned to smile at him, her knees weakened at the smile he flashed her in return. Shaking off the reaction, she focused on what she was saying, not on the man. “I’m wondering where the name came from. Desperation is a little odd.”
“Odder than Monkey’s Eyebrow, Arizona?”
“Not quite,” she said, laughing.
“How about Hygiene, Colorado?”
Still laughing, she shook her head.
“Yeehaw Junction? Krypton? Mudlick?”
“Okay, you’ve got me. Those are odd. But why Desperation?”
Before he could answer, they were forced to stop when a man and woman stepped out onto the sidewalk from the Chick-a-Lick Café.
“Excuse me,” the man said, realizing they had stepped into someone’s path, and then recognition lit his eyes. “Hey, Tanner.”
“Hello, Cal,” Tanner greeted the man, before turning to the woman and touching the brim of his hat. “Wilma. Have you two met Jules Vandeveer, Dr. Beth’s friend?”
The woman directed a friendly smile at Jules. “I haven’t had the pleasure. I heard Beth had a friend visiting. You’ll be in her wedding?”
“Yes,” Jules replied. “In her wedding, making sure all of the arrangements are made, setting it up...” She laughed, thinking of all the things on her list. “The date is quickly approaching, and there’s so much to do yet.”
“That’s the way it is with weddings,” Wilma said with a knowing nod. “It’s good to know Beth has a friend who can help.”
“We’ll see you Friday?” Cal asked Tanner.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” he replied.
Cal took his wife’s arm. “Wilma has a bride party this afternoon, so we’d better get going. Don’t want her to miss it or be late. Nice to meet you, miss.”
When the couple crossed the street, Tanner turned to Jules. “You asked about Desperation.”
She nodded, waiting to hear what he had to say.
“Well, the story goes that people began moving into the area during the land rush in the late 1800’s, but the town was really settled after oil was found in these parts a few years later. Those were wild times, before Oklahoma became a state. People swarmed here in droves, desperate to find their own little patch of black gold. As it turned out, the pool of oil in this area was only a small one and didn’t last very long. Eventually people either left the area, disillusioned, or they stayed and homesteaded.”In Harlequin American Romance books, of which my Desperation series is part of, the towns or neighborhoods are as much a character as the people who live there. Having spent my pre-teen, teen years and later in a small town only a little bigger than Desperation, it wasn't much of a stretch to create a fictional one. As references, I stole from many other small towns around the area to keep Desperation from being a carbon copy of just one.
Here are just a few places in Desperation that make it a town:
- The Chick-a-Lick Cafe, where everyone goes to see and be seen, and to catch up on the latest news and gossip
- Lou's Place, the local tavern
- Sheriff's office, located in the building that houses all the municipal/city offices
- 1st Bank of Desperation
- Post Office
- Grain elevator, because, after all, the town is surrounded by farms and ranches
- Grocery store
- Feed store
- The Commune, a retirement community where everyone wants to live.
- Opera House - There aren't a lot of these left in small towns, and those that are still standing aren't always in good shape. I researched until I found one in McPherson, KS, that has been restored and was perfect for what I'd imagined for Desperation!
|McPherson Opera House Restoration|
Desperation's Opera House is the home to a real estate office, an attorney's office, a tax preparation business, and the very favorite Sweet & Yummy Ice Cream Parlor, not to mention a beautiful ballroom and theatre.