Most of the story in Breaking Out (my new wlw ice hockey romance coming from Bella Books in less than a month) takes place in the town of Sussburg, Pennsylvania. Don’t bother looking for it, it doesn’t exist. I created it out of nothing for the purpose of the story. I also invented Windsor County, the central Pennsylvania county for which Sussburg is the seat of local government.
I decided to set the story in an imaginary place for a few reasons. First, I usually write spec-fic. I’ve created whole worlds, so I didn’t anticipate I would have too many difficulties in inventing one small town. I was both right and wrong on that one.
Second, using a real town would have meant a whole lot of research. You’d think researching a smaller area would be easier than a larger one, but that’s not actually the case. In order to be true to an existing place, you have to get the details just so, and there are so many fewer details for a town of 2,000 people than there would be for a place like New York or London, so each one is so much more important to get right. Not to mention, that while small towns may look similar to outsiders, each has a different feel that can be difficult to nail down.
Finally, I wanted to make a place that was free of some of the more troubling aspects of real life. Most small towns and rural places aren’t known for their progressive natures. I’m sure there are exceptions, but I wanted a place where I could be free to dismiss homophobia, at least for the most part. My main characters are both queer, KJ visibly so. No one in town has a problem with her about that.
I’ve made notes about the town; it’s a place that’s come alive in my head. There is much more to it than we see in Breaking Out. There, we see the ice rink (of course), the elementary school where Adrienne works, and the downtown bar where KJ works. We also see KJ’s house and Adrienne’s apartment. I’d love to get the chance to explore other places. Who knows, maybe I’ll get the chance.