Guest Post (and a Giveaway): Janet Chester Bly answers “How Do You Create a Fictional Town?”

Posted November 7, 2016 by meezcarrie in giveaway, Janet Chester Bly / 29 Comments


I’m honored to have author Janet Chester Bly with me today to talk about her Trails of Reba Cahill series! Specifically, I wanted to know how she goes about creating a fictional town.

First, let’s look at her newest book Down Squash Blossom Road.

about the book

downsquashblossomrd-finallowresWhat Secret Lies Down Squash Blossom Road?

Cowgirl Reba Cahill’s schedule is full. Save the family ranch. Free her mom from a mental institute. Take another road trip. Solve a murder and a kidnapping. Plus, evade a stalker. Can she also squeeze in romance?

Reba Cahill thought she could focus on the duties of the ranch, to help out her widowed grandmother. But a crippled Champ Runcie returns to Road’s End in a wheelchair and seeks revenge for the accident that put him there. Meanwhile, a letter from her estranged mom forces her and Grandma Pearl back on the road: I can leave now. Come get me. Love, Mom

When they arrive in Reno, her mother issues a demand and refuses to return to Idaho. They head west instead. In California, Reba’s friend Ginny’s marriage is on the rocks. The family business is threatened. And squabbles turn deadly. Reba must dig deep to find the courage to forge a relationship with her mom and escape a crazed man’s obsession. She also faces an uncertain future even as a horse trainer offers her a new horse to replace Johnny Poe … and maybe more.

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Download Now! 5 Free Chapters of Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2!

Click here:


NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling author Rachel Hauck said of Book 1, Wind in the Wires: “I love your voice! I love the setting…It’s a great story!”

Download Now! 5 free chapters of Wind in the Wires, Book 1!

Click here:

about the author


Janet Chester Bly is the widow of Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly. Together—his, hers, and theirs–they published 120 fiction and nonfiction books for adults and kids. Janet and their three sons finished Stephen’s last novel, Stuart Brannon’s Final Shot, a Selah Award Finalist. Down Squash Blossom Road is Book 2 in the Reba Cahill contemporary western mystery series. Book 1 is Wind in the Wires. Find out more at

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from the author

One Easy Way to Create a Fictional Town

by Janet Chester Bly

My late husband, Christy Award winning western author Stephen Bly, chose all his story settings from the beginning to happen in the West, whether historical or contemporary. When I started writing solo novels of my own, I determined to stay with that brand. So, that provided a specific geographical boundary.

The most basic sage advice for beginning writers is, “write what you know.”

idaho-mtsAs I conceived my own fiction stories, I found inspiration outside my own office window. Here I was in a small town at 4,200 foot elevation, on a mountain top prairie in north-central Idaho. However, it’s a very tiny town (population 350). No way I could use its name or fashion any part of the plot from real people. Had to be totally made-up from that perspective. Therefore, I determined to make the landscape setting as is, but everything else a fictionalized version of the village I live in.

That provided a number of positives.

I didn’t have to travel far to describe the scenes. And no one could tell me I didn’t get it right. Details about ranch life, coyote threats, and cows getting slaughtered, grew from an interview with a local rancher down the road.

Converting my town setting to the fiction name of Road’s End, I could also change details here and there and not have locals calling me out. And my new fiction world could be peopled with totally unrelated folks to the citizens I knew. No one had to second guess on that score.

idahoMeanwhile, I got to know the terrain and history of my region as well as I could. For instance, a few weeks before I started writing the scenes in Book 1, Wind in the Wires, our local museum sponsored a day-long, historical narrated bus tour of the surrounding wilderness areas of our area. Just a hop down the road and I could take advantage of a local man’s generational expertise of the background and lore of my setting. I learned a lot of facts, yet could embellish all I wanted because the town itself is a fiction set down on the ground where I live.

However, one of the characters of Wind in the Wires, 91-year-old Seth Stroud, determined to take a road trip in his purple Model T, in hopes of solving two cold case murders. That did shove me out of the house and onto my own adventure.

As I left the Idaho Camas Prairie and headed to Goldfield and Silver Peak, Nevada, I used real names of sites along the way and stuck to facts as much as possible. Descriptions of the desert scenes came straight from my first-hand notes. And I so appreciated readers comments about how real the descriptions formed images in their minds. In addition, much of that research I could also use for another road trip in Down Squash Blossom Road, Book 2 in the series.


If you were going to create a story about the town you live in, would you keep to the right name or change it? Why or why not? If you’d change it, what alternate name comes to mind?

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Janet is offering one of my readers a copy of Down Squash Blossom Road, your choice of paperback (USA only) or pdf copy for ereaders.

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29 responses to “Guest Post (and a Giveaway): Janet Chester Bly answers “How Do You Create a Fictional Town?”

  1. Anne

    i would change it since reading about a unique town which is created is fascinating, captivating and enjoyable. You imagine this town and want to explore the place.

  2. Katie R

    If it were a non-fiction book I would keep the town’s name, but for a fictional adventure (especially if the characters were spin offs of real people), I would have to change the name of the town. I live in a town called Freeburg so I would probably make it Freeville or something.

  3. Amanda T.

    I think if the book were fiction I would change it, even though I love where I currently live. 🙂

  4. Pam Lunsford

    I would differently change the name. I live way back in the mountains where we have a post office and an old restaurant. That’s it!! Everyone would think the characters were about them even it it were in the 1800’s. Haha!!

  5. Connie Saunders

    I would probably change it. There have been great stories about small towns that left me trying to figure out the real setting. Since I love live in Hillsboro, I might go for Valley View.

  6. Donna B

    I would have to change the name. I also live in a small village of about 300 people. My Mom has lived here since 1957. We used to have a small grocery store and at one time a small repair shop for lawn mowers. Now all we have is the post office. It isn’t too far to go to “town”, just 4 1/2 miles north or 6 miles south.

  7. I think I would change it. It would be fun to create something entirely from my imagination, so I could make it what I wanted it to be!!

  8. Deanne Patterson

    I live in Fort Loudon and would keep it because it used to be an Indian Fort here in the 1700’s. It would be interesting making a story around the history here.

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