Quirks of Palmer house attract a writer and her family
By Molly Moser
Residents of Guttenberg may have noticed activity in one of our most remarkable structures, the Palmer house. The familiar two-story structure at the corner of second and Herder Streets served as the late Dr. Carson Palmer’s office, pharmacy, hospital, and home. Dr. Palmer served Guttenberg for many years as a physician, surgeon, optometrist and dentist.
Christi and Matt Riverton moved into the Palmer house just after Christmas. The couple and their six children, Skylur, 16; Tearlyn, 11; Braxen, 8; Zane, 6; Ireland, 4; and now three-month-old Aspen, relocated from Dubuque, drawn to Guttenberg by the iconic home. With eight bedrooms, the house provides enough space for everyone.
Their new home required various updates, and its quirks mystified the family at first. A button to open the garage door, located in the kitchen, puzzled the family. Christi Riverton noticed a strange tube protruding from the wall in an upstairs room, and after speaking with a Palmer family member, discovered the tube stretched down to the front porch. “It was a way to call the doctor from the porch,” she explained.
The home’s quirks attracted Christi Riverton’s interest, as do the everyday quirks of the people in her life. Riverton is a writer with three published paranormal romance novels. “I use real life people to make my characters. I can build an entire character around somebody’s one weird quirk,” she says. “It makes them come to life.”
Her first novel in the Penhollow Series, a series of what she expects will be 13 books, was published by Renaissance E Books (Sizzler Editions), in 2012.
“I’ve always been writing,” Riverton said. One New Year’s Eve, she decided to give herself a challenge. “I set on a journey to write a novel in 100 days.” Though she didn’t complete the book by her New Year’s goal, she did finish it by December of that year.
In the mean time, she had a chance encounter with an editor from California, who visited the Dubuque shop she and her husband owned at that time. The editor read a chapter of her first book, written longhand, and said he’d be proud to be her editor.
That first book, Jeweled Embers, was published by February of 2012. In that story and the two that followed, Riverton used area landmarks, like the Julienne Dubuque Bridge and the bluffs of Northeast Iowa, as backdrops for the plot.
To write the 13-book Penhollow series, Riverton had to outline every character, draw out family trees, and build a set of rules for governing the paranormal realm her characters live in. “I ended up creating this whole world of races and people,” Riverton explains. “I already know how it’s going to end.”
Riverton's series of books are for an adult audience, and are inspired by the stories she loves to read. Her favorite authors include Stephanie Meyer, author of the popular Twilight series, as well as Anne Rice (The Vampire Chronicles), Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse Novels), and Kresley Cole, a #1 New York Times bestselling author of paranormal romance novels.
While she writes in a genre she knows well, Riverton enjoys researching unfamiliar topics, like her main character’s career as a ballerina and her ancestry in Cornwall, England. Riverton is in the midst of preparations for her fourth book, which involves re-reading the first three to reacquaint herself with the details of each storyline.
Riverton writes at night, carving out one hour from her busy life as a mom and wife, and the Palmer House is once again filled with the hustle and bustle of every day life.