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Plain Jayne shows off the romance of Squamish

The fifth romantic novel by author Laura Drewry lands on USA Today's bestseller list

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Once upon a time, there was a dreamlike place that was a little like Squamish.

Jayne Morgan moved away from it at 18 but returned home to take over her grandmother's bookstore... and love lay in wait for her.

In romance author Laura Drewry's official biography, she describes having the Little House of the Prairies series by Laura Ingalls Wilder in a central spot on her bookshelf, positions they have held since her girlhood.

They are books with a sense of place and era, things that Drewry has incorporated into her own story set in a mythical Squamish, Plain Jayne.

The novel, Drewry's fifth, jumped into USA Today's bestseller list on Thursday, June 26, at No. 138.

"It was totally unexpected! It came in right after the Diary of a Wimpy Kid book!" she laughs. "So that was fun."

The location was certainly central to her story when she wrote it.

"It's sort of set in Squamish... I had changed the layout of the town — I'm using certain landmarks but the layout is different — so my editor suggested I change the name of the town. Readers are very particular, if you set it somewhere," Drewry says, sipping coffee in her Garibaldi Estates kitchen. "The book opens on (Squamish Days) Logger Sports weekend (the first weekend in August) and that kind of thing. It is fun that way."

It's very much in the traditional romance genre, with a straightforward storyline and as clean as a whistle.

"It's a very simple small-town romance. They call it sweet because there's no sex, unusually. It's not one of those multi-layered, all sorts of different plots going on. It's just simple. The characters are best friends, she moves back town," Drewry explains.

Plain Jayne is the first of what she hopes is a four-book series, published under Random House's digital line called Loveswept. Between 7,000 to 8,000 copies have been sold since it was published in April.

Drewry says that writing for a digital audience is no different than for readers of paperback.

"I don't know if you should write a different way for digital audiences. I just write," she says. "Everyone has their own way of writing.

"My way's weird but it works for me! I never have an outline, I've tried to force myself to figure out how to write off an outline and it ruins the entire process for me. I hate it. I usually have the characters' first names. It's more helpful for me if I already have a title, I don't know why. Most of the time, I know exactly what my first line is going to be and I know exactly what the last paragraph or page is going to be. The rest of it fell out."

When asked if she has an innate sense of the story arc, Drewry laughs and says, "No. I just bleeeeh! Try to spell that out! When I realize that it's not working, I go back to the start and I fix it and then get a little farther... it's a long process."

The editing is everything, she says.

Random House has also picked up the second book in her series, called Primadonna. It comes out on Sept. 23. As an indication of her write-and-rewrite style, Drewry says there are 27 drafts of Primadonna in her computer.

The series is currently digital only, though Drewry says the German rights have just been sold for both digital and paper formats.

The inspiration for the series came in part from Drewry's ownership of The Bookshelf, an independent bookstore on Cleveland Avenue, which she owned with her husband Ron from the fall of 2008 until it closed in May 2011.

"Once we had the bookstore, I didn't do any writing for many years. This was something that was always 'there.' When the store closed and I sat down to write this book, it was one of those ones where I didn't think it would be published. I wrote it because I had to get it out," Drewry recalls.

"I had the bookstore and I wanted to incorporate that into the story, because Jayne inherits her bookstore from her grandmother, who was a horrible person. That's why she came back to town."

Currently working a casual clerical job with the District of Squamish, Drewry had been a sales assistant in The Bookshelf when the owner retired, and she and her husband took the plunge in a tough time for independent bookstores. It was a labour of love, but it made her other love, writing, harder to carry out.

"You want to write, even if you don't have an actual story that you're working on, it's like a physical thing. You must write! But with the store there wasn't enough time."

She gives her husband, Ron, a lot of credit for his support.

"I could feed him Kraft Dinner every night and he wouldn't care. Once my boys are off to school that's all I do. I sit at my desk. I have got a good gig, I know this," she says.

"I've just started the third book in the series which isn't going well because I have no title and I don't know how it's going to end!"

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