The people of small-town Blytheville, Ark., stood in line at a bookstore to meet best-selling author Ronda Rich and put in a good word for their unmarried mayor.
The town’s attempt at match-making inspired Rich, a Gainesville native and former reporter and current columnist for The Times, to pen her debut novel.
“The entire town showed up at the booksigning to fix me up with the mayor,” Rich said. “I was so charmed by it. This town had so much love and kindness to it. It inspired ‘The Town That Came A-Courtin’.’”
The novel then inspired a made-for-television movie and is being filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The film will make its world television premiere in January on Uplifting Entertainment.
Rich said the experience of writing a book and helping with its movie adaptation makes her feel “gratitude for the good Lord.”
“There are a lot of people out there who are more talented than I am, who’ve written better books than I have and they don’t get to be made into a movie,” Rich said. “This is nothing that Ronda Rich has done. This has just been an ultimate gift and I am so grateful for that.”
Rich is currently in Canada visiting the set. She will make a cameo appearance in the film as a fan waiting in line at the bookstore.
Lauren Holly, best known for her work on “NCIS,” plays Rich. Rich said she hasn’t yet had a chance to meet Holly but has heard she’s doing a great job in the role.
The film also stars Emmy award-winning actress Valerie Harper as Charlotte, the owner of the small town’s bed and breakfast, who attempts to spark a romance between the author and the widowed mayor. Harper is best known for her roles on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Rhoda.” Harper announced she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer earlier this year.
Rich said she and her husband, John Tinker, had dinner with Harper and her husband shortly after arriving in Canada.
While dining, the conversation revealed a “tremendous coincidence.”
Rich’s father-in-law, Grant Tinker, worked with Harper early on in her career as an actress on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” Rich said the coincidence is like a “circle completed.”
She said Harper showed her how she’d been practicing her Southern accent.
“I can tell you, she’s perfect for the role of Charlotte,” Rich said. “It is not just a matter of having a multi-award-winning actress play the part, because that’s great. But she truly fits the part so perfectly. That’s what’s so exciting.”