A Virginia author draws inspiration from Hanover, Caroline, and other central Virginia areas.
Candice Ransom has written children’s and young adult books for 30 years.
Her most recent release, “Rebel McKenzie,” is set in Frog Level, and she’s writing another novel based in part on 1961 Mechanicsville.
Though Ransom lives in Fredericksburg, she’s a frequent visitor to the area. She has relatives in Hanover, and she’s grown quite fond of the place.
“My husband and I like it here,” she said. “We’re always up and down Route 301 shopping and antiquing. I’m taking pictures. It reminds me of where I’m from originally.”
Ransom grew up in Fairfax County in the 1960s, “when it didn’t look anything like it does now,” she said.
She appreciates that Hanover and Caroline are still filled with “small communities that are not what I called ‘Wal-Marted’ to death.”
The people are great to write.
“I love these people. They’re so funny, and they’re genuine and they’re sincere,” she said. “They’re talking about their daily lives. … They’re interested in the news, but they’re also interested in their neighbors.”
“Rebel McKenzie,” published last year by Disney-Hyperion, features a 12-year-old aspiring paleontologist who enters the Frog Level Volunteer Fire Department beauty pageant so she can afford to go to the Ice Age Kids’ Dig and Safari.
“They’ll recognize their fire station,” Ransom said of Frog Level.
The setting also functions as “any rural area fire station.”
She did have to take some liberties with the Frog Level area, such as giving them a 7-11 and a place to buy groceries.
“Rebel McKenzie” is contemporary, but some of her books detail historical settings. However, she never takes any liberties with history.
The novel she’s currently working on is tentatively titled “Morning Glory Girls,” and it will be aimed at more mature teenagers.
It focuses on the friendship of four 15-year-old girls from differing backgrounds in the 1960s, including one black girl.
“The strong friendship bond is coming apart for various reasons. It’s 1961. Things are changing everywhere, and class systems and the race issue and all those things are coming into play,” Ransom explained. “They are trying to hang on to their relationship, but there are lots of outside influences.”
The town is called Morning Glory, but it’s geographically located in the Mechanicsville area and combines elements of several Virginia locales. A tobacco plant is prominently featured (but Ransom made it clear she is not encouraging smoking).
Ransom recently completed the research for the book. She visited tobacco farms and interviewed people who worked on them as teenagers in the 1960s.
She said the history helps her figure out her story.
“It takes you in different directions that you had not thought of,” Ransom said.
“Morning Glory Girls” definitely takes on a more serious tone than “Rebel McKenzie,” but it will still have its moments of humor.
“I can’t just write serious,” Ransom said.
She’s currently tackling what she calls the hardest part of writing a book—finding the right voice for the beginning.
The writing process should take about a year. It’s not yet guaranteed for publication, but Disney-Hyperion has expressed interest in it.
Ransom said she enjoys discovering what this area has to offer.
“It gives me enormous pleasure to just get in my truck and come down here with my notebook and my camera. That is actually what I want to do for fun,” she said.
“Just going along the back roads and looking at things and places that we’ve never been to, little restaurants we’ve never eaten in before, taking pictures, it’s extremely relaxing for me.”