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Where is Home?

Thankful for Our Readers Giveaway: Sheila is giving away a copy of A Late Frost, the newest book in her Orchard mystery series. Leave a comment below for a chance to win.

by Sheila Connolly

Writers are often asked “what kind of book do you write?” and we’re stuck either with trotting out a term that we know readers will recognize (“cozy,” “thriller,” “suspense,” “paranormal, “romance” and so on), or we find ourselves splitting hairs (“well, it’s kind of a cozy, but there are no pets and there are three bodies in the story who died gruesome deaths, but there’s a happy ending”). There is no rule book that sets the absolute standards, and even if there were, publishers change their minds a lot about how they categorize (and shelve) their books.

Those of us who write multiple series also have to try to make each series distinct. You can’t just keep writing the same story, but changing the name and the profession of the heroine and the name of the adorable scenic small town with at least two good-looking single guys hanging around and a soaring murder rate that began when our heroine moved to town.

I think I write in a sub-sub-genre: the young woman who has been slapped in the face by adversity (lost a job/a fiance/family) and comes crawling back to (her old home town/a beloved relative’s house/a place where nobody knows her) and sets about making a new life for herself—while solving murders, of course.

I have my own personal reasons for taking this route, mainly because my family moved from town to town or sometimes state to state about every three years when I was young. That meant I was always the new kid, having to figure out a new school and make new friends. (Throw in entering the teen years and things get even worse.) Plus my mother hated my father’s side of the family and refused to have anything to do with them, and on her side, she had no siblings, her mother was an orphan, her father was an only child—so the net result was no close family anywhere.

A 19th-century print of Henry David Thoreau’s house in Corcord

Is it any surprise that what I wanted most in life was (no, not another sibling—one was plenty) a place to call home? A place where I could feel a sense of belonging? And that’s not always easy to come by. So I create my own: I write about places like that. I write about women who face difficult situations and overcome them. These are ordinary women, not super-heroines, or  doctors or lawyers or law-enforcement officials. They are people who were living an ordinary life of their choice when they somehow got kicked off the rails, through no fault of their own, and they have to struggle to define themselves again, to figure out what they want out of life. And since I write fiction, in my books they succeed. It doesn’t matter whether they end up in the city or the country, or even in a foreign country: my heroines’ path is the same. They look for and find their place in the world.

I find that satisfying to write (as I said, for my own personal reasons), and I hope other people do too.

My only problem these days is that I’ve discovered not one but two “home” places: Massachusetts and West Cork in Ireland. Maybe I didn’t have much in the way of recent family members anywhere, but I have a lot of ancestors in both those places. So in a way I’m surrounded by family in either place.

This is Meg Corey Chapin’s house–which happens to be a real house in Massachusetts, built by my 7x-great-grandfather. It’s still there, minus the barn.
My Irish cottage, close to where my Connolly ancestors came from.


Tomorrow is the release day for A Late Frost, the eleventh book in the Orchard Mystery series. My heroine Meg started out according to my standard plan, but eleven books later she has a new profession, a new husband (Seth Chapin from next door) and her own niche in her small-town community. Now she’s the one people turn to, to find their way. Oh, and she’s still solving murders.

I’ll be giving away a copy of A Late Frost to someone who submits an answer to my question (by the end of Wednesday, November 8th): Readers, where do you call “home”?


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