I can still go up to the front door of my family's home in El Paso and walk in and say "I'm home" and it's completely natural and normal... just like walking in the door of my home in New Mexico. Home is where you feel you belong.
That's the feeling I want my readers to have when they read my Black Horse Campground mystery series. When they open the book and find themselves back in Bonney County, even though it isn't a real place on the map, they feel that they are in a place that is familiar and comforting, even though there is a mystery to be solved. The characters are as well-known and loved (or not) to the reader as their most intimate family members.
When I visit El Paso, there are certain things that just come naturally. I was reflecting on this Sunday morning as my husband and I stood in line at Supreme Bakery, waiting our turn to buy traditional Mexican sweet bread (pan dulce) and containers of menudo (a Sunday morning hangover cure... er, traditional breakfast in El Paso!) The line snaked around the bakery and several patrons were there toting a large pan that they brought from home to fill with menudo. Anyone who's lived in El Paso, or anywhere along the border, for that matter, knows that this is standard operating procedure, whether you're getting your menudo at a bakery, restaurant, or church breakfast--you bring your own carryout container. It's what we do back home.
Likewise, in Bonney County or, more specifically, the Black Horse Campground, you know that Friday evenings bring the campers and employees together for an enchilada dinner or a fish fry and that every morning they'll be greeted by freshly brewed pinon coffee and home baked goodies in the campground store. It's what they do at home.
This is the theme I've managed to carry through all the books and is highlighted even more in the fourth book, "At the Cross Road" (due out in a few months): home is where you feel you belong. And more and more, J.D. Wilder is starting to feel very much at home in Bonney County. So when his new home is threatened with danger, he becomes fiercely protective of home and family... in all shapes and forms.
I hope my readers also feel that the Black Horse is home and my characters are family and when they open up my new book, it'll be just like opening the door and saying, "Hey, I'm home!" I can't promise you'll be greeted with a cup of pinon coffee, but the welcome will surely be just as warm!