Two years ago, my daughter and I sat on a blanket looking up at the sky as fireworks exploded above us. We were at Edmonds Civic Center Playfield, on the Fourth of July, a short walk away from the beach. Over the course of the hot, summer day, we had seen a hundred people we knew.
“What if I wrote a book about this?” I thought to myself. “Main Street, USA, where everyone you know turns out for the Fourth of July?”
In Edmonds, the Fourth of July parade brings out the best — and worst — in people. Two decades ago, you could stroll downtown, unfold your lawn chair and get a front-row view of the parade. A decade ago, you could park your chair on the parade route the night before, and it would still be there the next morning waiting for you.
But in 2019, prior to the pandemic, the “chair wars” raged through Edmonds sparking big conversations about morality, entitlement and how growth was impacting our community.
But nobody wants to read a book about urban planning — and I certainly didn’t want to write one. No, I wanted to create a book that was pure escapism. My goal was to whisk readers away to a place were happy endings were guaranteed.
That night, on the blanket watching the fireworks, I plotted out my book. “First, I need a heroine,” I thought to myself. That was easy. Julia Harper, the descendant of the founder of Harper Landing, would save Main Street from ruthless property developers. I made her a froyo shop owner, because I love frozen yogurt.
Next up was my hero, Aaron Baxter, a single dad with a baby who had just moved to town. “He’s got to be hot,” I told myself. “But not so hot that I need to write sex scenes, because people I know will read this, and that would be embarrassing.”
By the time the fireworks show ended, “Sweet Bliss” was born. Once I began writing, it was pure joy. Harper Landing wasn’t Edmonds, but I channeled my love for my community into every page. Near the end of the book, Julia gives a big speech and says: “I believe that Harper Landing is still a place where neighbors come to each other’s rescue. Where dogs can swim at the beach. Where a frickin’ fire truck and a bunch of preschoolers can roll down Main Street on the Fourth of July, and everyone will cheer.” I meant every word.
“Sweet Bliss” is my debut into the world of adult romance. It comes out July 13 from Montlake. The sequel, “Good Catch,” is about the hardships local journalists face in a changing industry and releases on Oct. 5.
Tonight, when I gaze up at the fireworks, I’ll be thinking about Harper Landing and hoping that readers fall in love with my imaginary small town. The chair wars rage in Harper Landing, but by the time the parade starts, there is a seat for everyone.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @jenniferbardsleyauthor, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as Jennifer Bardsley Author. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.