If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

The Beauty of Small-Town Life

by Julie Tollefson

I grew up in a small town, population around 30,000. The kind of place where everyone knows your family going back generations and wherever you go and whatever you do as a teen, you know someone’s mom sees and notices. 

After high school, on the cusp of adulthood, I was ready to get out.  No provincial life for me. As a journalist, I would travel the world, immerse myself in different cultures, uncover hidden truths. Oh, yes, I was ready for the adventures ahead.

So it’s a bit of a surprise that as an adult, more than three decades removed from the small town of my youth, I live in a rural area outside an even smaller town of about 5,000. I travel a bit for pleasure, and the hidden truths I uncover all lurk in the pages of my fiction, populated by people who inhabit small towns bearing a striking resemblance to the places I’ve lived.

I recently had a conversation with a writer friend about the pros and cons of living in a place where a five-minute trip to the grocery store takes 45 minutes because you chat with three people in the parking lot, another in the produce section, two in the canned goods aisle, and a couple more between the checkout stand and the door. The kid who takes carry-out orders at the gas station pizza place greets you by name when he answers the phone and knows your favorite combinations as well as what kind of car you drive. 

There are days when I almost yearn for anonymity, to be able to run errands without combing my hair or to slip into the town’s one swanky bar unnoticed for a quiet cocktail at the end of a long day. But for every one of those days, many more remind me of the value of the bonds forged in small towns, a lesson brought home poignantly last Monday when so many teachers requested time off to attend the funeral of a friend and colleague that the district opted to cancel all classes in all three buildings—elementary, middle, and high school—for the day.

I love that. 

The deep feelings, strong relationships, and quirky traits unique to each small town make for a terrific bank of experiences to draw on in creating fiction. 


In your reading or writing, are you drawn to small towns or big cities? What details about a place make stories come alive for you?

16 comments:

Jim Jackson said...

Every location has its own charm, dark side, and personal relations. I enjoy stories from big cities to wilderness, but I do understand the beauty of small-town life.

~ Jim

Art Taylor said...

I group up in a town of 900 people--yep, 900--and now live right in the shadow of Washington, DC. While our area has tons to offer and appreciate, I'm often nostalgic for small-town living, for many of the reasons you mention here. Good post!

Margaret Turkevich said...

I lived in a small Ohio town for nine years, and was happy to leave. Despite the comfort of everyone on Main Street greeting us by name, I grew tired of having no privacy.

In its fictionalized state, the small town became the setting for my books.



Tina said...

I've basically done the reverse of your trajectory. I started out in a very small town of around 5000 (my dad was the postman so everybody knew who to tattle to if I got up to something, which meant I got away with nothing). Now I live in a small town of 30,000.

My series is set in Atlanta, however, which is very far from small town in size, though I have noticed it behaves small-townish is some ways. It's essentially a collection of smaller urban cities that together make up the metro area and whose residents have very strong identities and loyalty to their slice of the ATL. And of course ITP (In The Perimeter) people never go OTP (Outside the Perimeter). Or vice versa.

Grace Topping said...

The things you mention are probably why so many cozy mysteries are set in small towns. I've never lived in a small town, but would imagine that it would be a mixed blessing.

KM Rockwood said...

I now live in a rural area, and I fully well realize that I can never be an "old resident," no matter how long I live here. We get together with friends, some of whom have lived in the area their entire lives, and I sometimes marvel at the familiarity they have with so many people they went to school with 60 years ago.

When I was young, we lived under the flight pattern for what is now Kennedy Airport in New York. And my first move was to Chicago.

In my stories, I use both. I'm very familiar myself with the anonymity of some places. On the other hand, one of my buddies who came from a small town and moved back after spending 20 years in prison says what makes him feel worst is when he walks down a street in town and all the mothers call to their children to come inside. Certainly a perspective that can find a role in crime fiction.

Kait said...

Beautiful, Julie - I grew up in a smallish town (it felt claustrophobic at the time) the kind of place where when I snuck my first cigarette my parents got 19 (count 'em - my mother did) phone calls. It was also the kind of place where strangers would take your hand to help you cross a busy street, and you could safely knock on any door and ask to use the little girl's room because you knew the family who lived behind the door. If not by name, by sight. Although I ended up moving to two large cities - New York and Miami - I quickly discovered that both places have small towns nestled within the big city umbrella and most of your real life takes place in those smaller towns. I now live in two small towns, Fort Denaud, FL and Wallagrass, ME.

My writing is a divided animal. Some in small towns such as Marathon, FL or unnamed towns in Maine, others in the big city of Miami. In all cases, though, my heroes and heroines are rooted in small towns under the umbrella of their cities.

Gloria Alden said...

Julie, I grew up in a rural area next to my grandparents' farm, but with a lot of houses
close by and some side streets, too. Just down the road less than a half mile, there were stores, gas stations, and so forth so it was sort of like a small farm. We were a about 5
miles from the county seat which had maybe 20,000 people in it which seemed like a big town to us with three movie theaters. Several years after I married, I moved back to Champion Township where I grew up and my children went to the same school I went to and that my mother and her siblings went to so it was sort of like a small town.

I taught in a Hiram, Ohio, a small town with a college and realized that everyone living in the area knew all about the others who lived there except for the college students.
Twenty-six years ago I moved to another very small community more rural than not and even
though I've been here that long, I don't know anyone except for a few people. I still drive
the seven or eight miles to go to thechurch in the area I grew up, shop in some of their stores, get my car repaired there, and run into people I know unlike where I live now. I love that, and that's why my series is placed in a small town much like the others in the N.E. Ohio where I live. Although, I don't live in a small town like the one I write about
I feel I have the best of both worlds - a rural area with a woods to walk in and room for
my ponies and chickens and gardens, but close enough to make contact with people I've known on occasion.

Julie Tollefson said...

Jim - I agree every place has it's own unique qualities. I spent a summer on Long Island - big change for this farm kid - but I'm so glad I had that experience.

Julie Tollefson said...

Thanks, Art! From population 900 to DC is quite a change! A visit to DC is on my bucket list, but every time we plan a trip, we end up someplace much more remote. Some day, though.

Julie Tollefson said...

Margaret, We're lucky in that we kind of have the best of both worlds - though we officially live in a small town, we're only half an hour away from a terrific university town (Lawrence, KS) in one direction and Kansas City in the other.

Julie Tollefson said...

Tina - I think our son would commiserate with you. My husband teaches in the same high school our son attended, the same district that shut down for the funeral last week. He had no chance to get away with anything sneaky - too many eyes on his every move.

Julie Tollefson said...

Grace, I think you're right about small town settings for cozy mysteries. Those intimate, intertwined relationships make for great plot possibilities.

Julie Tollefson said...

KM - That "old town" sentiment is interesting, isn't it? We've lived here for 20 years. We're not "old" but we're not "new" anymore either.

Julie Tollefson said...

Kait - Love the description of the small town within the big city phenomenon. It's so great that you can bring both perspectives to your writing.

Julie Tollefson said...

Gloria - You do have a wonderful setup. It's terrific that you're still in touch with people in the area in which you grew up.