Bellingwood is located (in my imagination only) in central Iowa, right in the middle of some of the most beautiful farm land available. Deep, black, rich dirt is uncovered every fall when the farmers harvest their crops and turn their fields. There is a corner that I drive past on a regular basis and sometimes in the early morning, when fog is lifting from the earth, I can almost see the homes and buildings on the horizon. Someday I’d like to find the farmer who owns the land that I’ve appropriated and tell him that a great many people around the world see a lively community where his fields reside.
The people of Bellingwood are real to me and are an outgrowth of the many people I’ve known throughout my life. I believe that if you look for good people, you will find them. They live everywhere and sometimes, their goodness might be hidden under a gruff exterior, but it is still there.
I grew up in quite a few small rural communities in Iowa. My father was a United Methodist minister and every four or five years we would move to a new town and I would get to know new people … wonderful people. Men and women who worked hard to make a good living. Their kids, who were as normal as any could be. All of these people moved in and out of each other’s lives, creating stories and experiences that continue to pour out as I introduce new characters.
Many will never understand that draw of small-town, rural America. I don’t know that I truly understood when I lived there, but after having lived in a city for most of my adult life, I realize that even though everyone knows everything about you, on the other side of that is the fact that you can find safety and joy in the fact that people know you so well and still love you.
Small towns may not be perfectly idyllic, but they are as close as I’m ever going to get in my life on earth.
Map of Bellingwood (Click to make bigger)
Sycamore House & Inn (Sketches)
There are old, empty school buildings in communities all around us. I would love to be able to restore, renew, renovate, and re-purpose these buildings, bringing vitality and life back into the community from them. There is an old building in Luther, Iowa that has captured my imagination for the last four years. It is the inspiration for Sycamore House, though I have taken great liberties with its structure in my books.
Click on each image to see it enlarged.
Sycamore House – Level 1
The Bell House (Sketches)
Polly and Henry, et al, are in the middle of renovating yet another classic Bellingwood building – this time a huge old hotel that they’re turning into a home. By “All I Want for Christmas” – Bellingwood #16.5, they’re partway in, though there is still so much ahead of them.
By #17 – Marks in a Lifetime, they are working hard at renovating the north side of the second level. So much yet to do.
Click on an image to make it bigger. (one square is two square feet)