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  • Writer's pictureSofia Sawyer

Behind-the-Scenes: Setting for “Always, Ella”

I’m currently plotting out my next story, Always, Ella, and I’m pretty excited because it’ll actually take place where I live! For some reason, I tend to make up fictional towns for my stories but found myself gravitating towards the idea of basing it here in Charleston, SC. Charleston is such a charming city, so it’s perfect for a romance.

(Note: This is not the full premise of the book but gives a glimpse into the purpose of the setting.)

In this story, Elena “Ella” Lucia will be part of a TV reality show to promote her new relationship book — a book based off her successful blog where readers write in looking for advice (think of a modern-day “Dear, Abby”). This show will send three lucky couples for a week-long stay in Charleston where Elena will coach them through intimacy/relationship-building activities during their visit.

The kicker is, the producer decides last minute she wants Elena’s boyfriend there to give the couples a solid example of how they do it. Fun fact: Elena doesn’t have a boyfriend, despite mentioning one in her examples when responding to reader’s posts on her blog. In a pinch, Elena accepts the help of her best friend’s brother, Jackson, in which he’ll pose as her boyfriend.

Through all the romantic events, Elena and Jackson start to see each other in a different light. Now they’re wondering if what’s growing between them is real or if it’s all for the cameras.

Why Charleston?

If you’ve never been to Charleston, you are sorely missing out. I’ve lived here on and off since 2010, and although it’s changed in those years (more people moving here, more communities being built out, expansion of downtown), Charleston has managed to maintain a lot of the charming aspects. For example:

  • The historic buildings found throughout the city (i.e., Rainbow Row)

  • Cute parks that are filled with colorful blooms and gnarled trees with swinging Spanish Moss

  • Cobblestone alleys lined with beautiful historic homes

  • Restaurants that work to keep the historic features and architecture throughout

  • The smell of Confederate Jasmine filling the air in the Spring

  • Undisturbed views of the vibrant sunsets over the harbor

  • The delicious scents coming from hundreds of amazing restaurants

  • All the fun events and activities (usually surrounding food and bev)

  • And much more

With so much to work with, it was easy to think up activities for the couples to participate in.

Why It’s Fun to Write

I get to put my everyday experiences into my writing. For example, I’ll be able to describe the sweet smell of the jasmine and how it compels you to literally stop and stick your face in the bushes to get a good whiff. Or how beautiful the colorful buildings of the city look when the sun starts to set. Or how romantic it is to see the flickering gas lanterns lighting up the sidewalks and buildings. Or how calming it is to walk past open windows and doors of bars/restaurants and hear jazz music playing over the faint sound of clinking glasses and chatter.

It’s also fun to write because it gives me an excuse to explore. That’s a new one for me. Rather than Googling things or scouting out pictures on social media, I get to live it this time. Want to know what a massage at the Dewberry is like? I’ll book it. Want to be able to describe the taste of the oysters at the Darling Oyster? I’ll pop in for dinner. Want to know what the beach is like at night? I’ll take a trip down there and stick my feet in the ocean.

Anyway, I can’t wait to start writing this story. However, I still have to get through editing my current WIP, Tangled Up in You, before I can hit the ground running with Always, Ella. Until then, I’ll have fun doing my research!


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