Posted On March 26, 2012 by Print This Post

Writing the Small Town Romance with Katie Lane

Oh hey, have I got a great new author for you! I first read Katie Lane’s Going Cowboy Crazy last summer. I giggled and snorted my way through the entire book. Then bought her next book, and her next….=) If you love small town romance and love mixed with laughter, check out Katie Lane’s books!

Katie Lane - AuthorWhen I was younger, every summer my mother would pack me and my three siblings up in her Buick Le Sabre and take us back to the small Iowa towns of her youth.  It was there, amid the corn fields and green pastures, that I first fell in love with small towns.  There was something about the slow, simple pace and warm, friendly people that struck a chord with me.  This innocent charm was why, when I sat down to write my first novel, I placed my characters in a small town in Iowa.  Unfortunately, that book didn’t sell, but years later, another small town book of mine did.  Going Cowboy Crazy became a bestseller and joined the ranks of thousands of bestselling books that are set in small towns.   From Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird to Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbor series, this growing list proves that I am not the only one who enjoys the innocent charm of small towns.  So how do you go about effectively writing small town fiction?  Sorry to say, there is no guaranteed formula, but here are a few tips that will help:

1.      Know your town.  It does not matter whether you are writing from personal knowledge or just imagination, in order to make your town believable you need to know as much about it as you do a well-developed character.  And not just what businesses are on Main Street, but what is your town’s principal income, weather, history?  What makes it different from every other small town?  Is there a curse hanging over it?  Are there vampires living in the church bell tower?  Or, as in the case of my town of Bramble, just a bunch of folks who are the worst matchmakers this side of the Pecos?

2.      Pick only a few key townsfolk to represent the town.  No matter how good you are at world building or writing dialogue with numerous characters chatting in one scene, readers can get confused and lose interest.  I like to choose only a few characters to develop and do the majority of the talking.  I mention other people from time to time and tell a little about them (Example: Elmer Tate who sleeps it off in jail when he gets drunk rather than go home to his wife and her mean right hook.)  But, in the scenes with the townsfolk, I keep the conversation to three to four main characters.

3.      Never let your townsfolk overshadow your story.  If you do a good job of writing a small town, readers will come to love the people who inhabit it, but always remember that the townsfolk are only there to enhance the relationship between your hero and heroine.  They can add humor, drama, and advance the external plot.  They should not steal the show.  This is romance we are writing after all, and if you end up with more scenes about the town drunk or the promiscuous waitress than about your heroine and hero, something is wrong!

Last but not least, enjoy your setting and characters.  If you love sitting down at your computer everyday and traveling to your small town, readers are going to love it as well.


RU Crew – have you written a small town romance before? Do tell…

Join us on Wednesday when we meet new author and coffee addict, Donna Cummings.


Bio: Katie spends her days at a computer daydreaming, while the rest of the time she enjoys hanging with her family, reading, going to the gym, playing golf, motorcycle riding, traveling, or just snuggling next to her snoring prince. Every moment in life is a happily-ever-after just waiting to be fulfilled. You can visit Katie at her website.

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29 Responses to “Writing the Small Town Romance with Katie Lane”

  1. Hi Katie, thanks for joining us today. I write historicals and the manuscript I handed in is set in the country. So, in a sense, I’ve written a small town book!

    Thanks for the great tips.


    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 26, 2012, 5:10 am
  2. I hadn’t read many romances (I’m saying that on a romance blog?) but I have a liking to YA books set in small towns.

    Posted by Chihuahua0 | March 26, 2012, 5:40 am
  3. Hi Katie,

    I was born and raised in the big city. Neighborhoods are like small towns unto themselves. I draw from those experiences for my books.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | March 26, 2012, 6:59 am
  4. Morning Katie!!

    I have to say, I just finished Catch me a cowboy this weekend – what a blast! You always have the best endings…..=)

    My current ms is set in a small town, and you’ve given me lots to think about there…the weather, the economy, etc. I do need to make the setting stand out quite a bit more!

    Do you ever have to tame back your secondary characters? They’re all so vivid, but never steal the show – although Rachel Dean on her unicycle is a mental image that will stay with me forever!…lol


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | March 26, 2012, 8:14 am
  5. Hi, Katie –

    Welcome to RU!

    With the increased popularity of small town settings, especially for romances, do you have any advice for making these types of books stand out?


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 26, 2012, 8:35 am
    • Love your characters. It doesn’t matter if your writing is dramatic or comedic, if you get into your characters and love them, other people will too. I made up the zaniest cast of characters for Going Cowboy Crazy, and after I was finished, I thought “Crap, what did I do? No one is going to like these crazy folks.” But they do, and I think it’s because I love them so much.

      Posted by Katie Lane | March 26, 2012, 10:39 am
      • LOL – I’m with you there, Katie. I love my characters and know there’s something wrong if I don’t. I’m starting a new story currently, and I’m still trying to figure out my hero, but his dad…him I’ve got pegged :-).


        Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 26, 2012, 12:03 pm
  6. I write all small town and rural settings because it’s what I know and love–also my favorite to read. I think you’re so right in how important it is to know your town. And its people, to make sure you don’t make caricatures out of its characters!

    Posted by Liz Flaherty | March 26, 2012, 9:03 am
  7. Carrie – Thanks for a great recommendation!

    Katie – I’m looking forward to reading your books. I love small town stories!

    Posted by Becke Martin/Davis | March 26, 2012, 9:30 am
  8. Hello Katie!

    The first small town book I read was Peyton Place. Since then, I’ve been a fan of small town romances.
    I spent my teen years in a small town and couldn’t wait to leave. Little did I know that I’d be drawing from that experience later. I’m taking Carrie’s recommendation and checking out your books. Thanks for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | March 26, 2012, 4:01 pm
  9. Just catching up on some blog reading and I saw this post- it struck a chord with me! We moved to a very rural area five years ago to have a hobby sheep farm and I’m completely enamored with the character of not only small towns but the powerful characters who live in them!
    Thank you for tackling the balance of bringing too many locals into the story. I find it is tricky when you love everyone you want to include in the story!

    Posted by Kelly Wolf | March 29, 2012, 8:54 am

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