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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Small Towns in Myth and Truth

by M.L. Buchman

Wait a sec! What do I care for "truth?" I'm a fiction writer.

Curiously I think that fiction may be one of the great repositories of truth. It's a writer's truth—caught in story like in a droplet of amber—and passed on to the reader in the hope that we've somehow captured the least nugget of an inner reality and passed it on.

Passover (which started last night if you're reading this on Saturday) was a truth I have yet to try and capture in fiction. We were Jewish, and about as non-traditional and unobservant  as you can get (and yes I mean un- not non- [especially as a kid I was about as naivest you can imagine]).

Yet every Passover we made the great pilgrimage from our small town of Marathon, New York with its 1,200 people and its 10,000 head of dairy cattle, to the grandparents in New York City (a hamlet of 7,000,000+ people and very few cattle, dairy or otherwise). I discovered many "truths" on those journeys that were passed on to me:

  • the simple traditions of family -for this was the great annual gathering of our small family and my grandfather always ran a very formal Seder wearing his one good suit
  • the traditions of a religion to which I had no other exposure, but has been a surprising on-again / off-again community over the years since
  • and the madness of the city. I saw a hundred events and 1,000s of people who convinced me that I was blessed to be in a small town. In among the bustle I saw: fear, theft, carjackings (from the next car over), loss of hope (up close and personal). I never saw murder, thank goodness, but I heard the ambulance and fire engines running multiples per night on each visit.
Despite living in Seattle for a 20-year aberration that I'm little able to explain, I'm happiest in small towns. I like being able to walk out my door and be in nature in a half-mile (in some places only ten steps were required to enter hundred of acres of woods populated by deer and bear).

What I only recently realized is that in my first 37 novels, however, I had yet to journey to a small town. And so I found one. It is a place that doesn't exist, yet I know it well and love its people deeply. There will be more adventures there, for I've discovered a place very near my heart and can't wait to return.

Why it took me 37 novels to reach it, I can only guess. That is part of the writer's journey. Perhaps I wasn't ready to write it yet. Perhaps I had to once more live in the country. This time it isn't a "country" of the rural fields and streams I grew up in, nor the forests of other years. But it is the nature of a small town and a long beach. Here it is on April 3rd as a storm moves in (promising to block all view of the coming lunar eclipse).


And here is the small town that I discovered hidden behind the storm of big cities and a busy life. It started in my Firehawks romantic suspense series, but it also became a crossover to my upcoming Larch Creek contemporary romances. Welcome to Alaska!


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M. L. Buchman has over 35 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.

5 comments:

Judith Ashley said...

I lived for 7 years in Cottage Grove, a bit larger than Marathon, NY but small enough everyone did know your business and the countryside (forest, lakes, fields) were steps or minutes away. I liked being so close to nature but didn't like everyone knowing who I was even if I didn't know who they were (I was also in college at the time and for two years lived on campus).

Where I live now, I'm two blocks from a bluff that overlooks an 18 hole golf course and has a view of Mt. Hood on clear days. From my office window I can see a stand of Douglas fir. Not the same as living closer to nature but better than looking out on a parking lot!

M. L. Buchman said...

The small town know-it-all is a challenge. My smallest "town" was an island of 700. And it was surprisingly easy to disappear there and keep a low profile. I was active in several groups and had a higher profile, but you could stay pretty low.

My view at the moment: a beautiful inland lake just a half mile from the Oregon Beach. Definitely cheers me up. :)

Jennifer DeCuir said...

Small towns are amazing. Big cities terrify me. ;) I can't wait to discover the one you've created from your heart.

Danita Cahill said...

Big cities are exciting and interesting to visit, but as for living - really living - give me a small town any day! Fun post.

Sarah Raplee said...

I prefer smaller towns and lots of nature. Great post!