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Why I Wrote a Book Set in Des Moines

Des Moines Author Stormy Smith Who She Was

June 1, 2017

I never meant to write a book set in Greater Des Moines (DSM). But as I plotted my way through my most recent release, Who She Was, I realized the struggles my characters were facing were very similar to those our city has gone through. I write coming-of-age stories, and DSM has most certainly lived through its own tale.


In 2002, when I moved here, Interstate 235 was mid-expansion. Cones were everywhere. Downtown DSM was a place people went to work, not necessarily to play. Gorgeous old buildings filled with exposed brick and mountains of character were waiting to be revived.


I wasn’t enthused with DSM. I wanted to move as soon as I graduated. But my husband (then boyfriend) is from here and said he wasn’t leaving. So I bucked up and settled in.


It was clear back then our city was discovering its identity. We were a teenager, ready to mature.


Then we found allies. Much like my book’s characters, Charlie and Trevor, found a support system in their college roommates and adults in their life, business leaders, and engaged citizens in DSM said, “We can grow,” and they started to put a plan into action. There were growing pains (my small-town parents were terrified of 235 until it was finished!) and there were moments we wondered if things like the Historic East Village — which was filled with higher-end local shops and restaurants — could really take off.


But just like that awkward teen looking for his identity, each year we defined ourselves further. I was privileged enough to live here as we grew up and grew into our skin.

How DSM Has Evolved

DSM Embraces the Arts

Whether it is physical art (the incorporation of the Nomade sculpture into my story is one of my favorite parts!), Broadway shows, the 80/35 Music Festival or Ballet Des Moines.

We Value Health and Wellness

Because of this, we paved paths from one end of the city to the other and everywhere in-between to allow for biking, walking and jogging.

Visitors are Welcome

We welcome out-of-towners with enthusiasm and have added multiple hotels Downtown to accommodate them.

Sustainability is a DSM Goal

We support our local growers and makers with a world-renowned Farmers’ Market that draws thousands each weekend of the season.

We no longer look at the other large cities in the Midwest with aspirational eyes, as we are top among them. We outgrew our awkward teen years and have blossomed into a pretty darn successful adult.


After surviving a long winter at home with my new twin sons, I am so ready to get them out into the city this summer and show them all the reasons DSM is where we made our home. From the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and Gray’s Lake to the myriad of Downtown DSM festivals, we plan to get out and about to celebrate our city.


In Who She Was, when asked why he loves being in Downtown DSM so much, Trevor tells Charlie, “They took something neglected and broken and brought it back to life. There was a time when no one came down here… Then the community banded together and brought it back. Now, it’s beautiful and vibrant and filled with life. It’s something people want. It’s something they didn’t even realize they were missing until it was here.”


I think he said it better than I could. 


Want to know more about Stormy or her recent release Who She Was? Visit her website or her Facebook page.


Or, find out more about Downtown DSM attractions and events.

Stormy Smith

A word nerd from the very beginning, Stormy Smith has always had her nose in a book or a pen in her hand. Stormy lives in Iowa's capital with her husband, twin sons and two crazy cats. Stormy's favorite places include bar patios, live music shows, her yoga mat or anywhere she can relax with her family and friends. Visit her website and follow her on Goodreads.