Bestselling romance author Jo Goodman pairs up citified doctor Cole Monroe and tomboyish farmer Rhyne Abbot in Marry Me, set in a small Colorado town in 1884.

How does your training as a counselor help you with your writing?

It's difficult to answer this because so much of what happens when I'm writing is at the periphery of my awareness. I take the time when I'm in the early thinking stages of a story to map out a family diagram for my main characters. This helps me consider the relationships in the family of origin, and even though I might not write much about a character's upbringing, it's in my mind. Those family relationships shape relationships later in life, and so much of what we do is not thoughtful but reactive.

Why focus on the themes of parental roles, family secrets, and guilt?

Family secrets are one of the sources of underlying chronic anxiety in a family system. (That sounds rather professorial, doesn't it? Yikes!) Some families don't necessarily have secrets, but they have subjects that are simply never raised. Everyone in the family knows what can and cannot be discussed. It's a fascinating dynamic and parents play an important role in perpetuating it. It's not unusual for guilt to arise out of all that fraught silence.

Why send Cole and his wild theories to Colorado? Why not keep him in New York City?

Cole needs the freedom to follow his curiosity. It's hard to believe in this day of hand sanitizers in every purse or diaper bag, and people respectfully coughing into the inner curve of their elbow, but germ theory was still trying to get a foothold in the public consciousness when Cole was practicing medicine. The hospital where he practices medicine in New York is not prepared to fiddle with the status quo, so his choices are limited to knuckling under or getting out. This is a pretty classic struggle for anyone with a new idea, although I think the truly inspired don't struggle long. They go for it. In this case, the medical establishment exerts a force for sameness, and Colorado is open spaces, open minds.

What led you to choose 1880s Colorado?

When I think of Colorado, I think of majesty and magic. It's such a stunning area of the country, and the pioneer and entrepreneurial character of the early settlers still exists there. At least it does for me. It's amazing to me that anyone ever voluntarily leaves such an extraordinary place, even given the inherently restless nature of the human spirit. I hope the setting speaks to self-reliance and the character of communities that look to themselves for answers to whatever dilemma they're facing.

The historical setting also gives the romance its context and puts certain constraints on the characters in terms of their language and behavior. That just makes it more challenging to write.