Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Guest Blog with Shannon Taylor Vannatter!

The Darden-Gifford house in Rose Bud is one of those houses you can't pass without craning your neck to get a better view. I never knew the name, it was just the big white house in Rose Bud.

I was torn on whether to set White Roses in Rose Bud or Romance. The towns are seven miles apart. While Rose Bud seemed like the perfect setting for my florist, Romance had the post office,the re-mailing program, and weddings. So I decided to use both towns.

In the story, I mentioned a bleach blond bimbo who'd wrecked a few lives including my heroine's. At the time I thought, ooh, I'd like to write a book about her and figure why she's like that.

When JoAnne expressed interest in White Roses, she asked if it could be made into a series. I knew the post office would be perfect for book two and the big white house in Rose Bud would be book three. At the time, the house was kind of rundown. I decided that my bleach blond bimbo would be in charge of restoring it into a bed and breakfast and the hero would be the landscaper.

I asked around at the Rambler Cafe, learned the owner's name, and found out he planned to restore the house. Mr. Stark gave me permission to take pictures of the outside and promised a future tour. My mom and son were with me when I was taking pictures. My mom said, "Look at that balcony. Something big has to happen there."

I immediately thought of a scene and fell into a pattern. All the pivotal scenes happen on the balcony. While writing, I kept the inside of the house vague until my official tour. I took fictional liberty and uprooted the church to move it across the street for added conflict since my hero and heroine are unsaved at the beginning of the story.

My heroine, Shell Evans had a rough childhood, and unstable single mom, and always felt like people looked down on her whether they really did or not. Thankfully, I've experienced none of those things. It was tough getting inside Shell's cynical head. Having her think and say things that I'd never think or say.

Hopefully I have enough of her background that readers will understand why she's like that and empathize with her. I loved watching Shell blossom through the course of the story and had fun wrapping up all the lose ends in the series.

In each book, I include and Arkansas made product. My bed and breakfast had to serve coffee and RoZark Hills Coffee Roasterie just happens to be in Rose Bud. The owner knows his coffee since he set up the first Starbucks factory in New York before moving to Arkansas.

A few months later, my writer friend and her assistant went with me for the official tour of the Darden-Gifford house, something I'd wanted to do for thirty years. The description of the interior in the book is accurate, except for the attic. With the stained-glass window over the balcony, I just had to add a bedroom up there.

We learned that the house was build in the late 1890's, is on the National Historical registry and was designed by famous architects of the time, DeVoss and Carr. I was reminded that in 1982 a tornado leveled Rose Bud. It took out several outbuildings, but the house was undamaged. In the book, my heroine stays in the apartment behind the house during the restoration. The apartment is real and occupied, so I used my imagination on the interior.

Mr. Stark recently had the exterior of the house painted and thanks to White Pearls, there were rumors in Rose Bud that it was being turned into a bed and breakfast. Recently, I visited once more to get after pictures. It's nice to see the house being restored into its stately condition and Mr. Stark agreed to let me have a book signing there. I'm really looking forward to it.

Is there a house near where you live that you can't drive by without looking?


  1. There are many beautiful homes here in Rochester up on "Pill Hill" the historic district where many of the Mayo Clinic's first doctors resided.

    But in my hometown, Salina, Kansas, there is a huge Victorian gingerbread house--all turrets and balconies and fish-scale siding--that I would LOVE to go into some day. It's such an eye-catcher, my story-weaver mind just KNOWS something amazing had to have happened in that grand old house.

    I love that you've been able to incorporate such interesting and real elements into your stories. :)

  2. There are a couple of old houses in my small town I would love to peek into. One of them was used as a gift store briefly so I did get to see that one.

  3. I enjoyed this post, and loved seeing that gorgeous old house! ~ When I think of stately old homes, I think of several small towns here in Georgia. One town in particular is Social Circle (about an hour from where I live) and there's a beautiful old home there that has been turned into a Southern-cooking buffet restaurant. It's called the Blue Willow and has a wonderful reputation. Come to think of it, I'm way overdue for a trip there, LOL! Blessings, Patti Jo :)

  4. I love the places that inspired your stories. How wonderful you get to have a book signing at that home!

    There are a few places here that I'm curious about, but mostly it's the people who live inside and their stories. Thanks for some more background about your settings!

  5. Oh Erica,
    I love turrets, balconies, and fishscales. Set a story there and maybe they'll let you in. :)

    That's cool that you got to go in.

    Hey Patti Joe,
    I was a Georgia peach from the age of 7 - 12. And still have some family there.

    Hey Cindy,
    I'm really looking forward to that signing. I really enjoyed researching this series.

  6. Thanks for sharing the pictures.....makes me want to read the book MORE! And PJ is right about the buffet in SC....been there as I'm a Georgian, too!

  7. I love what we call around here "gingerbread houses" especially those old victorian with the round rooms...I always want to tour through them. It is always interesting to see if they've been decorated to match the house. I live near the former home of Albert Gallatin, the US Treasurer under Thomas Jefferson. They are slowly bringing it into the period with decor and it is interesting to watch what they've found to place in the home.

  8. i have never read your book let alone knew that there was a book wrote about a house in my home town... know that i know this im gonna have to go read your book..