"I hit it at the right time -- I just didn't realize it at the time," she said. She began blogging in 2007, just before the financial disaster of 2008, after which people became interested in the very topics she covered -- self-sufficiency, frugality, simplicity, family.
Jerry Waters, who became one of her friends from Charleston, recalls discovering McMinn's blog and dropping in for a visit one day -- in his low-slung Mazda Miata. McMinn was so surprised he'd made it across the creek and up her driveway, she took photos.
"I decided that I had to meet this talented woman who gave up everything to live on the most God-awful piece of property that I had ever seen," he said.
Waters, a photographer, has taken hundreds of photos at both of her farms, one of which became her book cover and others that are included inside. The two have become close friends.
McMinn's agent approached in 2010 about writing a memoir. McMinn wasn't interested. She didn't think she had a complete story to tell. She considered writing a cookbook, but rejected the notion.
Then life with 52 started unraveling, and McMinn faced an uncertain future at Stringtown. She couldn't farm there alone. Two years ago, she decided to make the complete break and found Sassafras Farm, located along a paved road a few miles off U.S. 119 with mail service, garbage pickup and, most of the time, better Internet connection. The school bus even picks up her daughter Morgan, now a senior at Roane County High School, in front of the house.
Her book agent didn't give up on the idea of a memoir, and McMinn finally saw that she had a life story to tell. It took a couple of whacks at it before she got it right. She realized the memoir couldn't be the somewhat sterilized story she'd been telling on her blog, but the truth about how things worked out with 52. It's not all love gone awry, though, but a story of lessons learned. With lots of recipes and craft ideas.
McMinn's children have always been a part of her blog; they're an integral part of the book, too. But she sought son Ross' permission to include some of his letters from boot camp. Now 22, he's in the U.S. Navy and planning to return to farm life when he has completed his service.
"Really, he was the most resistant about moving here," McMinn said. Son Weston, 20, is a student at WVU.
While life without a Target store or pizza delivery seemed traumatic to them eight years ago, McMinn said her children thrived here.
"This absolutely changed their lives," she said.
It changed hers as well.
"You would have to drag me kicking and screaming back to the suburbs," she said. "I don't want the things I used to want."
She may get a little taste of city life for a while -- she'll be signing books at stores in several cities in West Virginia, and her publisher is working on television appearances. Elle magazine has slated space to mention it this month, and Oprah Winfrey's O Magazine has promised space in November.
Meantime, McMinn, 49, is preparing for winter on the farm. The barn's hayloft is stacked high; summer produce is canned and lining the shelves. And McMinn is busy living out the next chapters, whether they are destined to be put down on paper or not.
And doesn't it just figure, the romance writer has a new beau.
He's a real life cowboy.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4830.