Writing a book set in a “real” small town is a bit of a challenge.
It’s why many authors choose to create fictional towns. They can arrange the town however fits their books best, and don’t have to worry about silly little things such as geographical accuracy and other location specific items.
But I always wanted to write a book set in the small Illinois town of Sandwich because it was where I was born and lived until I was 5. I went back there frequently in the years that followed because my grandparents and many of my relatives still lived there.
I haven’t been back to Sandwich in more years than I care to admit. So much of how I wrote Sandwich was based on my own childhood recollection and information I got from a wonderful Aunt who still lives there, as well as good ol’ Google.
So what things in the book ARE real?
Well, there really is a Yum-Yum shoppe. It’s in a new location now from when I was a kid, but it is one of those places when we DO visit, that we make sure we stop in! Although… I DID realize (too late) that I made a wee bit of an author no-no and spelled it “shop” instead of the correct spelling of “shoppe.” *sigh* Slapping my own hand now… Hoping local Sandwichians (?) will forgive me that!
|Sandwich Opera House|
And Art’s Supermarket is a real place in downtown Sandwich where we always went grocery shopping when we lived there.
I took a little liberty in including A&J Automotive, as it is no longer there. But it is a big memory of mine, as my uncle used to own it, and I remember going down there as a kid and seeing my Grandpa and Uncle and Dad all down there.
Gene’s really is a place to eat in Sandwich.
And the Sandwich Fair is a REALLY big deal to the town. it is the longest continuous running county fair in the state, and one of the largest antique fairs in the US. I took a little liberty there, as well, with the timeline. You see, the Sandwich fair is ALWAYS the week of Labor Day, every single year. But the fair begins on Wednesday after Labor Day… I took a bit of literary liberties and had it start a few days early, so it could be open on Labor Day. (So if you’re in the area over Labor Day weekend…. don’t try to go to the fair! You’ll be disappointed to find it closed! Wait a few days though.. you’ll be in for a treat!)
The Lake Holiday Independence Day Fest is very much real. I had much fun crafting their celebration and trying to include as many of the traditions as possible. A BIG thanks to owner Sharon Shepard for helping me with the details. I’ve never attended personally, though, so any errors are mine!
ALL my characters are fictional. I was a bit nervous… what if I named a villain the same name as someone in town and they think I’m talking about them????? But the truth is, I haven’t been back to Sandwich in a LONG time, so if that happens, well, it was totally by chance and not intentional in the least!
There were quite a few fun things in Sandwich and memories that I wasn’t able to include, and that made me a bit sad. Things like the train shaped diner on the main road going through town, the little Nazarene church that I attended growing up, the Sandwich Opera House, and the little old bakery that is no longer there but sold the HANDS DOWN best Chocolate Covered Bismark (custard filled) Donuts.
And of course, there are the wonderful memories from my Grandma and Grandpa’s house, right down the road from the Fairgrounds on Center Street. Rook parties and sliding down the ridiculously steep stairs (sore bum and all) and cinnamon rolls and reading Grandma’s collection of Christian novels… Lots and lots of good memories!
Discussion: Walk down memory lane with me! What is one of your favorite memories from growing up?