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A conversation with Sonoma romance novel co-authors Georgia James and Deborah Parrish

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“Home Sweet Sonoma” has all the fixin’s of a good country romance.

Complete with an old church, small-town gossip and ice tea, this easy-to-read page-turner proves there really is no place like home.

Dallas-born Deborah Parrish and longtime Sonoma resident Georgia James combine their artistic talents and provincial knowledge to craft a smooth literary journey for readers. Set in California’s wine country, more than glasses of pinot are served on these pages.

With an underlying homage to artisanal craftsmanship, and the lifestyle that comes with, the details in the writing showcase the writers’ passions. Parrish, a business consultant for Petaluma’s O Olive & Vinegar and self-proclaimed lover of good food, along with James, whose hobbies include growing grape varietals and gifting her homemade wine, cleverly sprinkle a little bit of themselves throughout the book. (James is the pen name of Monica Dashwood, who also writes a monthly wine column for the Index-Tribune.)

The authors traverse known locations, like the Sonoma Plaza, as well as fictional ones, to display California’s natural beauty.

A Jack-of-all-trades, Parrish – author and part-time portrait and lifestyle photographer – explains her writing process.

“You have to see some place to really be able to write about it. A lot of the places we created are based on what is real; the beauty of Sonoma, the beauty of San Francisco, and the beauty of Tomales Bay. We would close our eyes and think through how things looked and how they smelled.”

James adds: “I live in the town of Sonoma. We’re able to take our own very real experiences of the town and of the area and know it intimately. We could picture it and visualize it. Our love for the town shows up in the (book’s) setting.”

In the first book of their “Home Sweet Home” trilogy, the co-authors introduce Catherine “Kitty” Taylor. Superstitious and structured, the go-go-go San Franciscan successfully built her own advertising firm by prioritizing her work life.

When attorney and love interest Nick Dylan is unexpectedly called away on business to the East Coast, the heroine’s path takes a surprising turn.

Now, in Sonoma for her mother’s 70th birthday, Kitty finally slows down. On her mother’s property, she meets Daine, the resident handyman. Kitty begins to reconsider her lifestyle choices, one ripe grape at a time.

When faced with obstacles, she begins to look inward for some answers and to explore her feminine side. But does she leave her heart in San Francisco? Or, can Daine pursue it in Sonoma?

So, why did Parrish and James co-author a romance novel?

The two women met in the film industry, both working at Lucasfilm in the late ‘90s. Laughing, the pair referred to this era as “the old days.” These quick friends hoped to one day do something creative together.

Once while snowbound, a series of romance novels kept Parrish company. She began to read one particular novel because the cover caught her eye. But by the end of that tale, Parrish was inspired. She phoned James: “We’ve got to do this!”

And now they have.

Using modern technology, James and Parrish often wrote in real time. Both authors could play with words on a shared Google doc.

If one word was typed and disliked, another was suggested. Both agreed they learned to understand each other better through this process. The result was better character dialogue.

“It wasn’t about opinion,” said James. “Or, right. Or, wrong. If we felt strongly about something, we’d step back and see if there was a hybrid or more creative option than what she wanted or I wanted.”

Life was the main obstacle in finishing the book.

“It really was creating and honoring the time that it took to get through all of it,” said Parrish.

The authors hope this work touches their readers’ hearts. A laugh. A cry. Or the realization that we all have wisdom inside of us that we can access.

And, thanks to this book, the knowledge that one can travel around Sonoma without leaving your own front porch.

“Home Sweet Sonoma” will be available digitally and in paperback at select stores beginning Tuesday, April 17.

More info at www.heartworkspress.com; and they'll in person at Readers' Books May 17 at 6:30 p.m.