Pueblo County, Colorado
Contributed by Jean, Gracie, Phyllis and Karen.
Colorado Springs Gazette 4-14-2002 - Coming Home - Writer Sets Latest Novel in Pueblo, Which Gets a 'Bad Rap,' She Says - As romantic settings go, few authors would pick a blue-collar town like Pueblo - except Barbara Samuel, who has lived there for most of her adult life and loves the place. "Pueblo gets a bad rap," she says. So when she made the transition from nearly 13 years as a romance writer to contemporary women's fiction, she decided Pueblo would be the setting for her novel "No Place Like Home" (Ballantine, $23.95). "I felt strongly that (Pueblo) is unfairly maligned," with derogatory nicknames and jokes about being dirty or boring, she says. "There's a really negative picture of Pueblo in most Coloradans' minds. Nobody understands what Pueblo is all about." She wanted to show the charming neighborhoods, the meticulously kept lawns, and most of all the "bedrock of family . . . and the beauty of its many cultures" that make it a good place to live. She writes, in the words of her lead character: "I'm sure the thought of going home . . . (was) triggered by little things - the cadence of Italian-accented English in the voices of people walking below my window, the wrong taste of salsa made by recipes that were nothing like the ones at home, an illusory scent of sage and rain on the wind. After more than twenty years away, there were suddenly reminders of my hometown on every street corner in New York City." Samuel, 42, has written about 15 romance novels as Ruth Wind, and another seven in her name. She also wrote (in paperback) "In the Midnight Rain," her first attempt at contemporary fiction, as Ruth Wind, several years ago. "No Place Like Home" is the story of Jewel Sabatino, a "bad girl" who left home on the back of a rock musician's motorcycle and returns home 21 years later with a teen-age son and a dying friend in tow. Her Italian family is in the restaurant business in Pueblo, and Jewel finds work with them and other eateries as a pie-maker, supplying restaurants with home-baked desserts. "I know it sounds weird, but I saw a pie truck delivering pies one day to a local restaurant, and that was the start of the idea," Samuel says. She's not a baker, but she made a lot of pies while writing the book - for research, of course. It's a story of relationships - between Jewel and her quiet mother, Jewel and her angry father, Jewel and her sisters, Jewel and her son, and, of course, a love story. Warning: Have a box of tissues handy while reading the last 30 pages. And a fan for one particularly steamy love scene. Samuel is a third-generation native of Colorado Springs who went to school at the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo in 1980. Pueblo, she says, was like Colorado Springs was when she was growing up in the Roswell neighborhood, attending Lincoln Elementary School. Samuel (then Barbara Hair) later attended Russell Junior High School and Doherty High School after her family moved to the Village Seven area. In college, she majored in mass communications and journalism, "but I always really wanted to be a novelist." Marriage and two children added a twist to her plans to become a reporter, so she asked her husband for five years to work at being a writer before she went to look for a secure job. "I felt like if I didn't do it right away, I'd never do it," she says. "It took me 41/2 years. I just made it." At first, she wrote literary short stories and discovered there was no market for women writers in the '80s. She finally chose romance novels because she thought it might be easier to break in there, and because it was a place where she could speak directly to women "without having to deal with the male literary establishment." In recent years, she's won numerous awards, including the Janet Dailey Award (worth $10,000), and three Romance Writers of America awards. When she wrote "In the Midnight Rain," the story of a bi-racial woman searching for her dual roots, it was honored as one of Library Journal's top five books of the year in the Best Genre Fiction category. She finds writing women's fiction much more freeing than writing romance novels, because "I didn't have to focus just on the romantic relationship," she says. Samuel's next book will follow the new path. It's a love story inspired by the holy dirt at the Santuario de Chimayo, in Chimayo, in northern New Mexico. It's set in Taos. That's all she's giving away.
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