Please help me welcome today’s guest, Wendy Rich Stetson…
Good morning, Wendy, thank you for joining me. Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
I’m a city girl with a hometown heart. I grew up in Central Pennsylvania, the setting of my Hearts of the Ridge series, but I’ve lived in New York City for over 25 years. Although I’m a wee bit scared of heights, I live on the 16th floor of a high-rise in Upper Manhattan with my husband, teenage daughter, and very naughty Maine Coon kitty.
Where did you get the idea for Hometown?
I guess you could say Oprah made me do it! Just out of acting school and twiddling my thumbs while I waited for the phone to ring, I saw an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show featuring romance writers. “I could do that,” I thought, every bit as naïve as I was to think a starring role on Broadway would land on my doorstep, wrapped in shiny paper and tied up with a satin bow. Still, inspired by those Oprah writers with the often-heard advice to “write what I knew” I came up with a simple premise: what would happen if a girl moved back to her hometown in Pennsylvania and fell in love with an Amish guy. Twenty years and endless edits later, Hometown is now in the hands of readers.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
I’m a professional actress, audiobook narrator, and theater teaching artist. I’ve played saucy maids, longsuffering spinsters, and quirky leading ladies on and off-Broadway and at regional theaters around the country. I’ve worn no makeup onscreen with some of Hollywood’s most gorgeous stars, and Rick Sordelet (Broadway’s premier fight director) once told me I drove a cop car as well as any stunt woman. I love what I do, and I’m so excited about the reopening of theaters around the country.
Do you collect anything?
Like many redheads, I’m a huge fan of the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. I collect early editions of her books and display them in my office for inspiration.
What was your first job?
As an actor, I’ve had a lot of odd jobs to make ends meet. When I moved to New York, one of my first jobs was helping legendary children’s book author R.L. Stine answer his fan mail just as the Goosebumps series was taking the world by storm. It was extremely important to Mr. Stine that all the fans who took time to write to him got letters in response. Though I write in a completely different genre, he remains a big inspiration.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read Hometown?
Through Tessa’s journey in Hometown, the reader grapples with how two people from vastly different backgrounds can create a life together. Each book in my Hearts of the Ridge Series is a love story between an Amish and a non-Amish character and explores what happens when differing cultures mingle, clash, and ultimately merge. Themes of forgiveness, self-acceptance, and the healing power of love run through all three stories. When she turns that final page, I want my reader to feel all those things…and that along with Tessa, she’s finally come home.
What actors would you like in the main roles if your book were made into a movie?
Oh, this one’s easy! Debra Messing would play Tessa Meadows, Patrick Dempsey would play Dr. Richard Bruce, and Sam Heughan would play Jonas Rishel. Dream team!
What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?
I’m dying to write a middle grade ghost story with just the right amount of creep factor. I’ve just started playing with some ideas, and I’m super excited to give it a whirl.
What is your favorite quote?
I love the JRR Tolkein quote, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” It just fills me with hope. And he and I share the same birthday.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
As a tall, curly-haired redhead, I see some of myself in Tessa, but she is braver and ultimately more generous than I am. Her best friend Jenn is definitely inspired by my spunky college roommate of the same name. All the rest of the characters are entirely made up.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
I was so lucky that my parents were incredibly supportive of all my artistic endeavors. They always told me to do what I loved and to do my very best. These days, my daughter is my biggest fan.
Wonderful interview, Wendy. You’ve led a very interesting life. Thanks again for joining me!
When Tessa’s big-city plans take the A Train to disaster, she lands in her sleepy hometown, smack in the middle of the most unlikely love triangle ever to hit Pennsylvania’s Amish Country.
Hot-shot Dr. Richard Bruce is bound to Green Ridge by loyalty that runs deep. Deeper still is Jonas Rishel’s tie to the land and his family’s Amish community. Behind the wheel of a 1979 camper van, Tessa idles at a fork in the road. Will she cruise the superhighway to the future? Or take a slow trot to the past and a mysterious society she never dreamed she’d glimpse from the inside?
The girl entwined her fingers in her skirt and tugged the fabric tight. “Your hair is the same color as my cat, and she’s the best cat in the world.” In a heartbeat, she fled and buried her face in the man’s lap.
“My goodness. What a compliment. Thank you.” She fumbled with the clasp of her wallet, discovering only then she smooshed her thumb deep into the whoopie pie.
The elfin child giggled and bounced on bare toes.
Standing, the man swept her into his arms and smiled down at Tessa. “Rebecca has not seen many women with ginger hair.”
Ginger hair. For years, she was tormented by boneheaded boys shouting, “Carrot Top” and “Flame.” No one ever called her mane ginger. Beneath his candid gaze, her curls heated like embers, warming her from top to toe. Who was this man?
The girl wriggled, knocking askew his straw hat.
He tossed her under one arm like a sack of flour and righted it, loosening a tawny curl that escaped the wide brim and fell over one brow. His gaze passed over Tessa’s face.
Her unruly hair and short shorts tweaked at her consciousness. What did the Amish call outsiders? English? She was definitely dressed like an English woman. And not one from a Jane Austen novel.
He deposited the giggling girl right-side up on the floor and approached the table. “I’ve rarely seen hair that color myself. Like a copper penny.”
She stared at the mangled whoopie pie and blushed even deeper. For a brief moment, she felt his gaze trail down her body like a caress. Or did she?
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Wendy Rich Stetson is a New York City girl who still considers the Central Pennsylvania countryside to be her home. She grew up road tripping in a 1979 VW camper van, and she keeps a running list of favorite roadside attractions from coast to coast. Now an author of sweet, small-town romance, Wendy is no stranger to storytelling. She’s a Broadway and television actress, an audiobook narrator, and a mom who likes nothing more than collaborating on children’s books with her teenage artist daughter. Wendy lives in Upper Manhattan with her family of three and rambunctious Maine Coon kitty. Follow Wendy’s journey at www.wendyrichstetson.com