Sherryl Woods has her own reality


I’ve come to writing fiction from a curious place. In college and for many years after, I worked in journalism where reality was everything and accuracy was paramount — contrary to what many people think of the media these days.

The first time, way back in 1980, when I sat down at a typewriter — yes, folks, a typewriter — to try my hand at writing a romance, I spent a very long time staring at the blank page wondering where my notes were. Where, for instance, were the facts of the story? Where were the quotes? When I mentioned this to a friend, they laughed. “You get to make them up!”

I can’t tell you how long it took me to get used to that concept, that I could create an entire fictional world in which people said and did exactly what I told them to. Men, especially. What a joy there was in that!

Over the years and more than 100 books later, I’ve created a lot of fictional communities, but the truth is that even now, they’re based solidly in some aspect of my reality. The setting for Amazing Gracie, a reissue of one of my favorite books, due in stores December 29 is a perfect example. Though the town itself is pure fiction, it is most definitely surrounded and influenced by real places.

The Victorian house which Gracie desperately wants for a bed and breakfast is, in fact, loosely modeled on Riverhurst, a lovely old Victorian on the river in my childhood summer home, Colonial Beach, Virginia, where I still spend half of my year. Riverboat, which Kevin’s aunt delights in visiting to bet on horse races, actually exists in Colonial Beach, though the building has changed since the story was written thanks to the devastating effects of Hurricane Isabel a few years back.

I love this blending of reality and fiction. I think it adds to the atmosphere of a book. Locals, who can readily identify certain landmarks, seem to take a certain pride in recognizing things from their neighborhood. Folks unfamiliar with the area seem inspired to visit.

In one of my series, also set in a small riverside town in Virginia, the local cafe is called Earlene’s. In reality, in Colonial Beach, we have Lenny’s. Yet whenever my goddaughter comes from Ohio to visit with her family, she insists we have breakfast at Earlene’s.

Of course, there’s a danger in blending reality and fiction. When mentioning real places, I do it only in the most positive light. You can be guaranteed if I’m being critical of a place, it doesn’t exist in reality. The same is true of people. I don’t use real ones, though I may have my thoughts about who inspired certain characters. I will never in a million years own up to it.

So, I encourage you, if you read Amazing Gracie and fall in love with the town, come to Colonial Beach next summer and I promise you’ll spot many of the sights from the book. I can’t, however, promise you’ll meet anyone half as sexy, though, as Kevin. If he were around, I would have snapped him up long ago.

13 Responses to Sherryl Woods has her own reality

  1. Sue A.

    Most of my traveling is done through books. Thank you for sharing your own travling adventures in such an entertaining way!

  2. Chris Mead

    Hi Sherryl,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post! I have read several of your books and they are all on my keeper shelf 🙂 I love a story that has elements in it of real, live places. Although I don’t get to travel much, I enjoy traveling within the pages of a good book.

    Happy Holidays!

    Chris Mead

  3. Gigi

    Hi Sherryl,
    I have been a fan of yours for years. I never would have thought you never knew how to start fiction. But I can understands after writing nonfiction that the fiction wouldn’t come so easily. My daughter is studying journalism and mass media in college she love writing and being in front of a camera.

  4. Joyce

    A very interesting blog. I love knowing I could find actual sites from a fictional story.

  5. catslady

    I’m always thrilled to find a book that is at a location that I know. And how lovely of you not to mention any bad points!!! I think it makes the book seem more real (anything based on fact is more intriging to me). Your books sound wonderful.

  6. Lori Leger

    Thanks for the blog, Sherryl. I love a book that draws you in to the setting and makes you want to move right into town. That’s what yours have always done for me. God Bless you during this wonderful Christmas season…and always. Lori Leger

  7. susan leech

    I love your books and look forward to future ones. I travel within your books in the comfort of my arm chair. Merry Christmas to you and your family and may we meet many times along the trail of books and words. susan L.

  8. Lisa G

    Thanks for a wonderful blog. It makes me want to go to Colonial Beach, sit on a dock and lookout upon the ocean. It sounds so peaceful.

  9. Michele L.

    Hi Sherryl,

    I read the book SAVING GRACIE about 4 months ago and loved it! What a great story! Yes, I did fall in love with the setting and the town. You sure know how to make books sparkle and come to life. In fact, I have a whole collection of your books on my KEEPER shelf. I don’t have everyone of them yet but I am still looking!

    I love the south and have relatives who live down there. It is always fun to go where it is warm and the sun shines all the time. Many blessings for a fantastic Christmas and a fun and happy New Year!

  10. Linda Henderson

    I always enjoy reading your books. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

  11. Kathleen

    I am a big fan of yours Sherryl and I never miss reading your books.. In fact a book that I did miss, Destiney Unleashed, was just offered to me as a prized in a contest on another blog and I was thrilled to be able to have this book.. I and I will be getting Saving Grace for sure..
    I love the south, especially when you write about South Carolina. Charleston is one of my favourite cities I have visited in the US.. Can’t wait to go back for a visit..
    Take care and have a wonderful Christmas and all the best for the New Year..

  12. Diana Smith

    Thanks for the great blog,Sherryl. I love reading your books and remember parts of Saving Gracie I think. I have never been a beach person nor a water person so have never wanted to go to the beach. But I like reading stories set on them as well as on islands. I just go there in books is all. Keep up the good work and hope to see more great books soon. Diana

  13. Pam Keener

    Thanks for this blog post. It is always interesting to read about local sites that truly exist. I am not mich of a traveler so I travel as I read my books.
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam Keener in PA

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