My book setting: Vermont in the fall

by Rebecca Morean

I grew up in the California desert and moved to Vermont as a young bride and lived there for nearly twenty years. I want to move back.

Desperately.

vermont1I hiked beautiful trails down dirt roads, I lived through ice storms and power outages, cooked on a wood stove during those times and lit candles. Raised our children to ski and sled, and drink hot chocolate out of a thermos, and ice skate down frozen creeks. Talked incessantly with friends over the burn of woodstoves. Saw the sky flicker magically with green and purple with the aurora borealis while we all shivered in bathrobes. Watched the snow melt, smelled lilacs, planted seeds. Witnessed the tender duality of new leaves sprouting from trees in the colours of their previous fall before turning green. Eating fiddleheads, tiny baby ferns, curled tight like leafy fists, tasting strong and pungent, with lots of garlic and butter. In summer, we swam in gorgeous rivers tossed with granite of all colours, had picnics in our own backyard along the Connecticut River, made ice cream, had cookouts with friends and talked about the wood we would stack for those woodstoves, had stacking parties, found frogs.

But it was fall that made my heart sing. Actually sing. Fall in Vermont is the stuff of dreams. Cool breezes, indescribable colors shifting in the sky at dawn and dusk, and during the day with leaving swaying. The smell of early smoke in the air. Crisp air and crisp sounds. Heavier clothes that could be shucked away in a moment and you were still warm. This was fall.

vermont2So when I wrote We’ve Got This I set it in one of my favourite places. Now that I am living in Ohio, it was glorious to return to Vermont in my mind and paint the picture of Harvey, the fictional town with all the regulars. The push and pull Vermonters have between old and new results in comedy and practicality. You could step into a store that was built in 1850, get fresh-churned ice cream, and you would remain oblivious to the camera in the corner….a nice mix of the romantic with practical and a perfect metaphor for Kate and Ryan. She’s the practical school teacher turned screenwriter, focused on hiding herself away. He’s the Emmy-winning television doctor just looking for honesty in his work again. Subterfuge and blinding truth; that friction felt real until they both let their defences down and found romance.

Vermont and the Eastern Maritimes, where they go to look for whales, provided the kind of gorgeous, quiet backdrop these two characters needed to find each other. A city would not work. The glamour and rush, the congestion and digital time-keeping would make it nearly impossible to create what they needed to recreate themselves. And there are too many resources in a city. Too many ways out and excuses. Vermonters help each other. Resources are scarce. A mall may be a two-hour trip. There are no Walmart stores in Vermont. If you drive off the road in winter, you might freeze if someone doesn’t stop to help. That relying on each other, realising ‘this is it, it’s up to us’ was the kind of world I had to build to get these two together and keep them together.

vermont3Vermont is cold, brilliant, tender and green, and in the fall it is filled with red, orange, purple, yellow, brown and the soulful smear of every colour in between. For two people at a crossroads in their life, small-town life, with its characters and idiosyncrasies, its scrubbed beauty and aura of hope and community, fit not only the story I wanted to tell, but allowed me to move back there….if only in my mind.


got-this

A Cinderella story about mothers and movie stars, mud boots and Manolo Blahniks, and dreams that do come true.

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Chaos in a Small Space

In the third ‘Forced Proximity’ post of our romance tropes series, Rebecca Morean tells us how a Prius brought her couple together.

The phrase ‘forced proximity’ has a nice scientific ring to it—like there might be laws or rules involved. In my novel the mechanism of force is a Prius. And yes, it hums. But it also provides a perfect venue for conversation while offering physical limits. If you can create tension between characters, chaos in a small space can be dramatic, funny, uncomfortable or, ultimately, intimate.

In We’ve Got This, the tension builds as Kate spends much of her energy hiding secrets and Ryan expends soulful efforts to unveil truths. While this story could be set in Boston, throwing the two into the backwoods of Vermont immediately turns them into a couple and creates danger in and of itself when they get into trouble. There is no one around to save them. Having Ryan and Kate spend a lot of time in a Prius also opens the door to wonderful dialogue and magnifies every move, look, shrug and touch they offer each other.

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The Prius also forces two people together who otherwise never would have met: she’s a high school teacher, he’s a movie star. But from the moment she picks him up at the airport, they are together, forced to relate. As they discuss female-male relationships he learns a lot about her. As he is People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive pick of the year, she thinks she knows all about him. What the forced proximity proves is that she doesn’t.

Forcing characters together makes every moment drip with meaning. Even where Ryan sits, moving from the back seat to the front, becomes symbolic and important to how they relate. When he becomes ill and dehydrated, the forced proximity turns funny, and again, having them together in a tight setting puts the focus solely on the characters and accentuates their differences. The dialogue is swift, and defenses are down. He’s delirious, she’s practical. He moans, she rallies. Just being in the car sets the boundaries for action and what each character can do. And Kate’s a mess driving in the middle of nowhere: dropping the phone, trying to take his pulse, talking to the ER doctor, staying cool, all the while trying not stare at the gorgeous man sweating and panting in the back seat of her car.

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I can think of countless other stories in which forced closeness forces characters to open up. Nora Ephron put Harry and Sally together in a car for a road trip. There’s Thelma and Louise. In Six Days Seven Nights, Harrison Ford is stuck on an island with Anne Heche. And in real life, the man who became my friend’s second husband ended up spending four days and three nights with her in her home on 100 acres in Vermont…thanks to an ice storm. They had only been out to dinner once before. She said it was all those little things over those four days that added up so right. A real-life forced proximity story…

Stephen King once said that all a writer had to do was put two people in a room and see what happens. I agree. Two people anywhere, alone, is interesting.


wevegotthis

A Cinderella story about mothers and movie stars, mud boots and Manolo Blahniks, and dreams that do come true.

Feed Your Readers: September New Releases!

24999

A Cinderella story about mothers and movie stars, mud boots and Manolo Blahniks, and dreams that do come true.


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The second in a tantalising trilogy from award-winning author Alison Stuart, about warriors, the wounds they carry and the women that help them heal.


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KM Golland kicks off Secret Confessions: Backstage with a story about a guy having a bad day, a girl who can help him out, and the naughty things two fans can get up to in an isolated stairwell. 


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Eden Summers explores just what one fan will do to get Backstage…