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I’m happy to welcome my friend author Donna Cronk to Outtakes. Donna has written two contemporary Christian novels whose widowed heroine Samantha Jerrett must start over and decides to do so in a small town that feels familiar to anyone who’s lived in one, both the good and the not-so-good. Here, Donna discusses the place that inspired her.—Kim 

By Donna Cronk

Donna CronkI have no idea how one is supposed to write a novel.

Does one come up with a story outline? Start with a character or two and tell their stories? Does it all begin with a theme?

Beats me.

I can only tell you how my first novel, Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast, came about, and how I continued the story with That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland.

The writing started with a place—a most specific place to me, but a place that each reader envisions in her own way. That place, whatever name you give it, is called home.

For me, home is Liberty, Indiana, because that is my hometown. Even though I’m transparent that when I wrote the books, Liberty is in my mind the backdrop for the action, I decided to call the town something else. After all, it was Liberty where my novels unfolded, but it was a fictional version of Liberty. So I called it Freedom.

I’m told that people in my real hometown try to figure out who is real, who is not, and most of all, who is the real-life nasty character—Samantha’s nemesis—the one I call Ellen.

They don’t believe me when I tell them that Ellen is made up, that she was necessary to set up conflict and move the story forward. They hear me out, then whisper, “I think I know who she is.”

I’ve had readers from other small towns tell me that surely I modeled the cover picture of the bed and breakfast after a house in their hometowns. Well, no, I didn’t.

Yet I love it when the story, characters, and plot resonate with readers from near and far. I like to think it’s because the stories are believable and the characters transferrable to people we’ve all known. Don’t we all tend to see ourselves through literature?

Union County Courthouse

Union County Courthouse in Liberty, Indiana (photo by Donna Cronk)

The first book began as a reaction to The Empty Nest. As life spun out of control when my boys left home, my longing for home, true home, got the best of me.

My husband mentioned that there’s nowhere else in retirement he would rather live than Liberty, Indiana. And that’s when I started this fictional story about a woman whose life is a mess, so she returns home. And there she gets into another mess. Place, even if it is home, doesn’t save us from ourselves.

My stories unfolded in this unique place I call Freedom. My main character went home again. And I got to go along for the ride.

Won’t you join me there?

That Sweet Place coverDonna Cronk lives in Pendleton, Indiana. By day, she is a newspaper journalist in New Castle, Indiana. By night she enjoys creating inspirational programs for women. Her novels are Sweetland of Liberty Bed & Breakfast and the sequel, That Sweet Place: At Home in the Heartland. They are on Amazon. Contact her at newsgirl.1958 [at] gmail [dot] com. Visit her website at donnacronk.com.