The release of a new Willow Hill book is like Christmas for me, and it seems Buzzfeed agrees, with SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS making their 5 Reads Every Hopeless Romantic Will Love.

Susan Schild welcomes you back to the offbeat Southern town of Willow Hill, North Carolina, for a humorous, heartwarming story of new beginnings, do-overs, and self-discovery…

When it comes to marriage, third time’s the charm for Linny Taylor. She’s thrilled to be on her honeymoon with Jack Avery, Willow Hill’s handsome veterinarian. But just like the hair-raising white water rafting trip Jack persuades her to take, newlywed life has plenty of dips and bumps.

Jack’s twelve-year-old son is resisting all Linny’s efforts to be the perfect stepmother, while her own mother, Dottie, begs her to tag along on the first week of a free-wheeling RV adventure. Who knew women “of a certain age” could drum up so much trouble? No sooner is Linny sighing with relief at being back home than she’s helping her frazzled sister with a new baby…and dealing with an unexpected legacy from her late ex. Life is fuller—and richer—than she ever imagined, but if there’s one thing Linny’s learned by now, it’s that there’s always room for another sweet surprise…

We sat down with Susan over a cup of coffee and the Internet to talk about the new novel and get some insight into her process as an author of fiction with a very distinct, downhome flavor.

What are your biggest influences?

An overactive imagination, a fascination with psychology and a love of the South. With regard to writers, I am an avid reader and have been influenced by Southern writers like Dorothea Benton Frank, Mary Kay Andrews, and Jan Karon. Other fine writers who’ve had an impact on me include Debbbie Macomber, Jo Ann Mapson, and Pam Houston. One of my new favorites is Jenny Colgan.

How do you research when you’re writing?

The RV adventure played a fun part in SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS. When I met my husband, he had an RV and as more of a city girl, I just couldn’t see myself enjoying it. I did question him about the point of driving a house down the road, but quickly became a fan. Our two dogs could doze on the big dashboard, we could sleep in our own clean, non-hotel bed and sit in camp chairs around blazing campfires just likes the girls of the SWAT Team do in SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS.

With regard to destinations, I want to visit all of the places on the itinerary for the women’s Trip to see the U.S. of A., but have only had a chance to visit a few. For research, I read Trip Advisor reviews, studied websites and quizzed friends who’d traveled to those destinations.

One important note: I wrote SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS before the devastating wildfires caused so much harm in the North Carolina and Tennessee mountains this fall. Ms. Dolly Parton immediately spearheaded fundraising for those rebuilding their lives after the fires. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight. To learn more about how you can help, go to the Dollywood Foundation.

Ms. Parton, I admire you so, and when I do get to Dollywood, I’ll be craning my neck just like the gals on the SWAT Team, just hoping to catch a glimpse of you.

What does your writing day look like? Do you have any rituals to get you into the flow?

I am an early bird writer. After grabbing a cup of coffee and corralling the dog to keep me company, I am at the computer by 7:30 AM and usually write straight away though noon. No real rituals, except keeping my rear end in the chair, writing through the bad and not letting myself get discouraged.

Occasionally, writing dry spells or getting stumped by a story line call for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or M & M’s, but I’m working on that.

Willow Hill is a fictional town, yet very believable. How did you approach setting in this series?

Setting is so important, and luckily, Willow Hill is like many of the small Southern towns where I’ve worked and lived. It was like writing about my own neighborhood. I’ve known church ladies like Mama, had big gardens, ridden around in trucks, adopted stray dogs and been lucky enough to have had good friends like Linny, Mary Catherine and Kate.

Your writing has an authentic Southern flair. What is important in Southern fiction that perhaps you wouldn’t find elsewhere?

To me, the elements of Southern fiction include a distinctive sense of place, delicious regional food, and religion, family and community still as a backdrop for daily life. I appreciate Southern manners, soft accents and uniquely Southern expressions.

What’s next for you?

The book I’m finishing up is called Pecan Pie for Breakfast and features one of my favorite themes, fresh starts and happily ever afters at any age.

Where can we find you online?

Come visit me at my website follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to my quarterly newsletter for updates, the inside scoop and free chapters.

Thanks, Susan! You can pick up SWEET SOUTHERN HEARTS anywhere books are sold (only $5 on Kindle here)!