Today I am so pleased to welcome Heidi Cullinan to Joyfully Jay. Heidi has come to talk to us about her latest release, Carry the Ocean. I totally loved this book and have a review coming up later this morning. She has also brought along two great giveaways. Please join me in giving Heidi a big welcome!

Carry the Ocean book tour horizontal

Welcome to Ames

Heidi’s Hometown as the Setting for Carry the Ocean

Roosevelt School

Roosevelt School

When I began Carry the Ocean, it was a lark. I didn’t know if it would even get finished, let alone be published. As such, I entertained myself by making it incredibly local. Emmet’s house is my house. The train tracks in his backyard are in my backyard. His deck is my deck. The block party in chapter one is a real block party held every year on July 4. The former elementary school-turned-assisted living is around the corner, though in real life it’s condos. I really do live on a bus route not far from Iowa State University. The grocery store they frequent is real, and it does have live music occasionally. (It’s also where the produce manager works who inspired Special Delivery.) There are even more real life details I can’t share because they’d inadvertently spoil parts of the book.

Train tracks behind Heidi's house

Train tracks behind Emmet/Heidi’s house

It was all kinds of fun to make a story so local. I didn’t end up including all the local bits as much as I could have, but the setting was, naturally, incredibly vibrant for me as I worked. I joke I set so many books in Minnesota I might as well move there, but truth be told, I love where I live. I mean, I live in Story County. How is that anything but awesome? Plus Ames has just enough creature comfort while still being small enough to not drive me crazy.

Ironically, one of the hardest things about setting a book in Ames was that I stole so many things about Iowa State for Love Lessons. The Zodiac, the lake, the swans, the iconic campanile—for the scenes they were on campus in Carry the Ocean, I kicked myself over the little real-time bits I couldn’t include. There are plenty of other tidbits, though, which is good because I have two more books in the series.

Sometimes it’s hard to set books in Iowa because I know so much about it. I want to be accurate, and knowing the real-time details sometimes hampers me more than it helps. For example, there really is a Middleton, Iowa, I found out too late—but it’s in southeastern Iowa, not central west like I intended in Special Delivery. Originally I tried to set Love Lessons around Dubuque, Iowa, but I spent forever crafting a college I knew would fit into the complicated structure of universities actually housed there. I know the culture of southern Iowa is radically different than northern. I know south of Interstate 80 the small towns are more likely to have a town square, and few of them will sell alcohol on it. Towns in the northeast are more settled by Germans and tend to have a single main drag more than half populated by bars. I know the western half of the state is freakishly conservative while the east is much more middling.

Emmet (and Heidi's deck" and train tracks beyond

Emmet (and Heidi’s) deck and train tracks beyond

For Carry the Ocean, though, I simply dove in and wrote Ames. A college town with a campustown and a more traditional downtown. A bus system, a few random taxis. A love of bike trails. A severe lack of chain stores. A dying, pathetic mall. Not enough movie theaters. So many creeks and rivers and lakes around us that floods make us an island and bisect east from west. A university. A hospital. A quaint organic grocery, a thriving folk music community.

The one detail I deliberately changed is the hospital, because the real-life Mary Greeley Medical Center is where my husband works. Otherwise, what you read is real. All but The Roosevelt. Except my husband says whenever he walks by it on his way home from work, he feels like Emmet and Jeremey and David are there.

You’re free to imagine it too.

I’ve included a few pictures of Ames in the post, but if you want to see more, go here for more about Ames.


Carry the OceanThe Roosevelt, Book 1

Normal is just a setting on the dryer.

High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.

But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.

As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.

Warning: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.


Heidi CullinanHeidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and teenaged daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at


Heidi has brought two great giveaways for us today!  First, she is giving away a copy of Carry the Ocean to give away to one lucky Joyfully Jay reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Friday, April 10th at 11:59 pm EST.

Heidi also has an amazing tourwide giveaway going on.  Here are the prize details from Heidi: The grand prize this time is a signed copy of Carry the Ocean in paperback, a Blu-ray of The Blues Brothers, an Iowa State magnet, and Carry the Ocean scrapbook art. It’s made by Susan Romito, and it’s absolutely stunning. 

To enter for this giveaway, just follow the Rafflecopter link below. 

Rafflecopter giveaway

  • By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
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FILED UNDER: Giveaway, Guest Post