The Town of Riverbend
When I first plotted the novel, I knew I needed a setting that required time to travel. That meant either science fiction/fantasy or a historical. My love of Westerns settled the issue quickly.
The story needed a town for a setting, not a small town or village, but a town that was growing, on its way to being a big city someday but not anywhere near there yet.
Slowly, Riverbend began to form in my mind and then on paper. A growing town, founded and dominated by a strong businessman, Sam Carstairs. As long as the town let Sam run his ranch, his bank, and other businesses, he left it alone. Mayor Meriweather was handpicked as someone who would follow Sam’s directives. Sheriff Caleb Davis was an honest man who would keep the peace.
People came to Riverbend, drawn by the lush valley and rich land. Sam made sure farmers and ranchers coexisted in a harmony. Soon it had a school and a church. And a people who embodied the American ethic of personal freedom, hard work, and God.
As I worked the story, Riverbend grew from a setting to a character. A complex character. Peaceful and hard working, yet with a negative undercurrent.
An undercurrent of violence as personified in Sam’s son, Mark. A bully who thought himself entitled to whatever he wanted. He and his cronies were not above violence for gain and, sometimes, just for the fun of it. This undercurrent led to Mark’s fight with Michael Archer and Mark’s attempted rape of Rachel.
Another part of the town’s complexity was its goodness as shown in Pastor Luke and his wife Martha, in schoolteacher Annabelle and Deputy Pete O’Brien. And in the other townspeople who accepted Rachel for what she wanted to be and welcomed Michael and supported his quest.
It was fun to write about Riverbend and see it reveal itself to me on each page, to see it become not simply a setting for a story, but a character that helped mold the people and shape the story that became Journey to Riverbend.
Through the writing, I learned the importance of making the time to create a believable story world that can be a crucible for the characters to live and grow.