Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Romantic Destination – Part 2 of 3

Take a tour of Rose Bud, Arkansas with me, the setting for White Pearls. Comment on any post dated Ku;y 11- 15 for a chance to win a copy. Deadline July 16, 11:59 pm central time.

The Darden-Gifford house in Rose Bud is one of those houses you can’t pass without craning your neck to get a better view. I never knew the name, it was just the big white house in Rose Bud.

I was torn on whether to set White Roses in Rose Bud or Romance. The towns are seven miles apart. While Rose Bud seemed like the perfect setting for my florist, Romance had the post office, the re-mailing program, and weddings. So I decided to use both towns.

In the story, I mentioned a bleach blond bimbo who’d wrecked a few lives including my heroine’s. At the time I thought, ooh, I’d like to write a book about her and figure why she’s like that.

When my editor, JoAnne expressed interest in White Roses, she asked if it could be made into a series. I knew the post office would be perfect for book two and the big white house in Rose Bud would be book three. At the time, the house was kind of rundown. I decided that my bleach blond bimbo would be in charge of restoring it into a bed and breakfast and the hero would be the landscaper.

I asked around at the Rambler Cafe, learned the owner’s name, and found out he planned to restore the house. Mr. Stark gave me permission to take pictures of the outside and promised a future tour. My mom and son were with me when I was taking pictures.

My mom said, “Look at that balcony. Something big has to happen there.”

I immediately thought of a scene and fell into a pattern. All the pivotal scenes happen on the balcony. While writing, I kept the inside of the house vague until my official tour. I took fictional liberty and uprooted the church to move it across the street for added conflict since my hero and heroine are unsaved at the beginning of the story.

My heroine, Shell Evans had a rough childhood, and unstable single mom, and always felt like people looked down on her whether they really did or not. Thankfully, I’ve experienced none of those things. It was tough getting inside Shell’s cynical head. Having her think and say things that I’d never think or say.

Hopefully I have enough of her background in the story that readers will understand why she’s like that and empathize with her. I loved watching Shell blossom through the course of the story and had fun wrapping up all the lose ends in the series.

In each book, I include an Arkansas made product. My bed and breakfast had to serve coffee and RoZark Hills Coffee Roasterie just happens to be in Rose Bud. The owner knows his coffee since he set up the first Starbucks factory in New York before moving to Arkansas.

A few months later, my writer friend and her assistant went with me for the official tour of the Darden-Gifford house, something I’d wanted to do for thirty years. The description of the interior in the book is accurate, except for the attic. With the stained-glass window over the balcony, I just had to add a bedroom up there.

We learned that the house was built in the late 1890’s, is on the National Historical registry, and was designed by famous architects of the time, DeVoss and Carr. I was reminded that in 1982 a tornado leveled Rose Bud. It took out several outbuildings, but the house was undamaged. In the book, my heroine stays in the apartment behind the house during the restoration. The apartment is real and occupied, so I used my imagination on the interior.

Mr. Stark recently had the exterior of the house painted and thanks to White Pearls, there were rumors in Rose Bud that it was being turned into a bed and breakfast. It’s nice to see the house being restored into its stately condition.  He also allowed me to have a book signing there. People enjoyed touring the house and several shared what the house had meant to them over the years.

It kind of made me sad to finish this series. I miss the characters and the setting. But I can go back to visit Romance and Rose Bud literally and in the books.

Come back July 15th for a never before seen excerpt from White Pearls.

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