With the second instalment of the Sapphire Springs series, Only For You hitting the shelves this week, there has been a lot of talk about Sapphire Springs. Where is this place? How do I move there?? What town is it modelled after? Well, Sapphire Springs is a fictional town, of course, but it’s hard to narrow down one specific town that inspired it. The truth is, Sapphire Springs is my dream town, formed by a whole lot of places—a few of which I’m going to share with you today.
Before we get started though, let’s dive in to Sapphire Springs and talk about the town itself. Fun fact, originally the town was on the Canadian side of the border, because your girl is Canadian, and well, I was more familiar with the towns here. Romance novels are notorious for being set in quaint, nearly perfect towns. It had to be somewhere with a lively wine scene, and capable of producing award-winning Pinot Noirs, due to the vineyard setting in Forever With You. I settled on the Niagara region, mostly because I had been there before. I knew I wanted a nicely groomed, vibrant downtown with lots of historical architecture, cool restaurants and shops, iron trim, and a town square. Basically I was picturing something similar to Stars Hollow, but with lots of old brick buildings and sidewalks. Yes, I am obsessed with brick buildings! I got lots of inspiration from both Stratford Ontario and Niagara-on-the-Lake, for the town itself, as well as Saint John, NB for the architecture.
Town Square was a no-brainer. I grew up near Miramichi, NB and ‘the square’ as locals call it, is one of my favourite places in town. It’s a nicely landscaped park with a fountain, a gazebo, and lots of huge trees, benches, and flowers. Most of the businesses surrounding the square are independently owned.
Then came the idea for an old shoe factory turned into businesses on the street level and apartments up above. I decided this “factory” would pretty much fill one of the four streets making up Town Square. The inspiration for this was sort of a combination of a couple of places in Fredericton, NB. The historic Hartt Shoe Factory was turned into apartments several years ago. It didn’t have street level businesses that I know of, but the building I lived in on Queen Street did, which was exactly the type of apartment I visualized for Tim and Emily—12-foot ceilings, huge windows, ornate hot water radiators, and decorative fireplaces.
Out back, behind the shoe factory is the lake and the marina, so of course we needed some cool businesses out there too. As the idea for Tim’s boat shop started to form, I began thinking of the sort of look I wanted it to have. I loved the idea of something really colourful to contrast with the historic town square; so again, I looked to my own town. Ritchie Wharf has three shops along the water, each with its cedar shingles painted a different colour. I liked that idea, so I chose 5 buildings, all connected to each other, and gave them brighter colours, more reminiscent of the houses on “Jelly Bean Row” in Newfoundland.
Boom. Crayola Row.
I can’t talk about Sapphire Springs and not talk about some of the characters and businesses. Fuzzy Collins, our Mayor, pretty much wrote himself. All I knew about him was that I wanted him to have a quirky ironic name, so I made him bald and called him Fuzzy. The rest just kind of came to life on it’s own. As for businesses, I chose the kinds of places I life to frequent myself, which meant we needed a coffee shop, a book store, a couple of cool restaurants, an antique store, a music store, a yoga studio, etc.
I am smitten with Sapphire Springs, so it’s been awesome to have readers ask me more about it and tell me they’d move there if they could. In book three, I decided to grow the character of the town even more by diving into the history of Sapphire Springs during the prohibition era, specifically. I think that may warrant a whole other post though. ;)