Once upon a time, a very long time ago now, traditional publishing was the only game in town. Any writer who wanted people to be able to buy and read their stories depended on signing with a literary agent, who then queried acquisitions editors at appropriate publishing houses.
When I began writing in 2002, Christian publishers were, almost without fail, turning down proposals for novels set outside the USA with the exception of historical England. To even have a shot at one of the (very) elusive publishing slots meant conforming in every possible way… including setting.
So when I wrote Raspberries and Vinegar in 2008/09, I decided to set it in northern Idaho, not that far from my home in southeastern British Columbia. The terrain is similar, the growing season is similar (important for farm-and-garden stories), and the lifestyle is similar. It wasn’t much of a stretch, honestly.
This novel didn’t make it with a major publisher. Instead, my one and only contract came from Barbour for a novella set in Missouri (Topaz Treasure in the collection Rainbow’s End, now out of print). Here’s my “call” blog post from February, 2011!
But a big house was considering R&V in 2011, so I wrote the second novel, Wild Mint Tea, on spec. After sending the proposal through pub board several times, they decided really, truly, no. In 2013, I signed both books to a small startup publisher. At that time, I probably could have rewritten them to have a Canadian setting, but you know what? The way I write, the setting is nearly another character in the story, and making that change would have been fairly major.
In 2014, I got the rights back to both novels and decided to write four more for a series of six. At the end of that, I decided to write a spin-off series. It only made sense for it to be set in nearby Spokane, Washington. Angela Breidenbach and I had already planned a duology set in Montana. We took that indie as well in 2014. (More Than a Tiara was my title in that collection.)
I did write the Riverbend Romance novellas in 2015 and set them in BC, Canada. They didn’t do as well as my other series. Any or all of these reasons might have been at play: they’re novellas, not novels; they’re not as well linked to each other as my series; they’re set in Canada not the USA. Either way, the experiment wasn’t a resounding success!
In the past several years, all my other series (five and counting) are loosely linked to each other with a crossover character here and there. They’re all set in Idaho, Washington, or Montana and share an interlinked timeline. I may yet set another series in the Riverbend world, but right now I’m having too much fun in my Urban Farm Fresh and Montana Ranches world to take the time out!
Besides, for me, it’s all about the stories. It’s about the characters, the communities they form with each other, and the challenges they face as they fall in love. Those aspects are common to western North Americans. While settings for each of my series are absolutely vital to how the stories play out, they are still only backdrops. The story is king.
Thanks for sharing, Valerie. I really liked all your Canadian Riverbend novellas, especially Pinky Promise with the little girls, along with the other series!
I like them, too! But they just haven’t done as well as the other series. 🙂