Fact or Fictionalized? Welcome Back Guest Jenn McKinlay!

I’m so happy to welcome back Jenn McKinlay! You are going to want to pack your bags and head to Connecticut after reading this post! We are celebrating the release of the twelfth book in her wonderful Library Lover’s Mystery series!

Jenn: How delightful to be invited to visit with six of my absolute favorite mystery authors on their spectacular blog — The Wickeds. Having grown up in Connecticut, I have a special place in my heart for writers from New England. Sherry, thanks so much for inviting me.

My latest library lover’s mystery Killer Research came out last month. Yay! It’s set in the fictional town of Briar Creek, which is based on the real village of Stony Creek on the Connecticut shoreline. Why did I fictionalize it? Because town historians can be persnickety when you write about a specific place and, frankly, I didn’t want to hear the whining and complaining when I twisted the facts to suit my nefarious purposes.

Thankfully, most old towns have a rich and glorious history, which we fiction writers can sift through for the golden nuggets of a story. The village of Stony Creek and the archipelago off shore, the Thimble Islands—which I call the Thumb Islands in the series—has a delightful past which I have plundered like a pirate to plot my murder and mayhem.

Interesting characters that have inhabited the area are the novelist Ayn Rand, who spent the summer in Stony Creek in the late 1930s where she developed some key plot points of her novel The Fountainhead. Other island residents of note who have contributed, unknowingly, to my mysteries, are General Tom Thumb, President Taft, cartoonist Gary Trudeau and broadcast newsperson Jane Pauley. In fact, doubling back and speaking of pirates, Captain Kidd is said to have buried some of his treasure on one of the islands, appropriately named Money Island. And, yes, I used this in one of my stories. Of course, I did!

There is a tour boat you can take around the islands that tells all of the juicy gossip and I’ve taken it several times to get a feel for life on the islands. There are hundreds of islands, if you count the big rocks, many are inhabited and six even have electricity. At the height of their popularity, there were grocery stores, a movie theater, and even a bowling alley out on the islands. Of course the hurricane of 1938 changed all that, wiping out many of the homes. But for me the islands still offer so many possibilities for mystery and murder…bwa ha ha…ahem.

If you want to read more about this magical area, here is a fun site: https://www.ctexplored.org/cruising-the-thimble-islands/

So, how about you, Wickeds? Do you fictionalize your settings or do you stick to accurate histories of actual places? Readers, do you have a preference? Do you care if an author fictionalizes a real place or no?

Thanks so much for having me visit today! Always a pleasure!

Spring has sprung in Briar Creek, but it is not all sunshine and roses, in the newest Library Lover’s Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of One for the Books.

Spring is livening up Briar Creek after a long, cold winter, and newlyweds Lindsey and Sully could not be happier. Even though the upcoming mayoral election is getting heated, everything else in town is coming up daffodils…until a body is found.

Ms. Cole, a librarian and current candidate for town mayor, is shocked when she opens her trunk to discover a murder victim who just so happens to be a guy she dated forty years ago and the founder of the baking empire Nana’s Cookies. As the town gossip mill turns, a batch of rumors begins to circulate about Ms. Cole’s rebellious youth, which–along with being a murder suspect–threatens to ruin her life and her budding political career. But Ms. Cole is one tough cookie who will not go down without a fight.

Has the campaign for mayor turned deadly? It is up to Lindsey, Sully, and the rest of the crafternoon pals to see how the cookie crumbles and figure out who is trying to frame Ms. Cole for murder and why.

Bio: Jenn is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series. She is also the winner of the RT Reviewer’s Choice Award for romantic comedy and the Fresh Fiction award for best cozy mystery. A TEDx speaker, she is always happy to talk books, writing, reading, and the creative process to anyone who cares to listen. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets, and her husband’s guitars. 

Visit her website at: http://www.jennmckinlay.com

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Facebook: JennMcKinlayAuthor

Instagram: @mckinlayjenn

44 Thoughts

  1. Welcome back, Jenn! What a delight to hear about the real places behind Briar Creek and the Thumb Islands. I used the real town of Amesbury – but in 1888. For my contemporary towns, I either fictionalize them or invent a new one. As you say, readers can get picky about real places.

  2. I like fictionalized locations, even if they are based on a real place. I love Briar Creek and the Library Lover’s series. Killer Research is my new favorite book of the series.

  3. Congratulations on your latest release! I’m on board with fictionalized locations based on bits and pieces from real settings. For example, the 100-year-old building next to ours had a secret cellar. My mind exploded with the possibility of secret tunnels—offering dark yet wondrous possibilities.

  4. Both of my series use real locations, which is sometimes helpful and sometimes not. I don’t have a preference as a reader for one type over the other, as long as the location is drawn well.

  5. Congratulations on your new book! My daughter and her family live in New London, CT and I agree with you that the Connecticut shoreline is very lovely and full of history!

  6. Really enjoy it when an author takes a real place and fictionalizes it. Makes it fun and interesting for both author and reader. If you have been in the area that a story may be written in, it’s fun to see if you can figure out fact from fiction. The way I look at it I read to relax so why not mix fact with fiction. I find it interesting when you can tell that an author’s done the research and knows the facts, but then at times bends them to fit the story.

    Congratulations on the recent release of “Killer Research”! It’s on my TBR list and I’m anxious to read it.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  7. Fictionalize the location please or like Dru I will be hunting for the place. This is a favorite series of mine. Jenn, thanks for writing these books!

    1. Thank you, Judy! I so appreciate the support. I’ve had a lot of people ask me to tell them how to get to Fairy Tale Cupcakes, from my other series, which is set in Old Town Scottsdale (real), but they only have a Sprinkles Cupcakes. Dilemma!

  8. I prefer fictionalized places because I find that books set in real places tend to feel dated when I’m reading about stores and restaurants that I know don’t exist anymore.

    1. Oh, I never even thought of that, Sandy. But it’s true. I set an opening scene in an iconic restaurant in Boston and then before the book came out, the restaurant closed – after 50+ years. That wasn’t supposed to happen!

  9. Jenn, so nice to see you here today! I love the town you have created. Briar Creek is recognizably Connecticut and yet, as the author, you can lay it out exactly how you need it to be for the purpose of your stories. I have not taken a Thumb Island tour, and I’m pretty sure that if I do, I’ll be expecting to see Sully, but…it is on my must do list for next summer.

      1. It really is a well-kept secret. My husband, who is map freak and prides himself for really knowing the states he has lived in, never heard of the Thimble Islands. Now, that is hidden.

  10. Congratulations on your latest book! My garage sale mysteries are based on the real town of Bedford, Massachusetts and Hanscom Air Force Base. I loved using them as the basis for the setting. I did send Sarah off to lots of real places around Ellington and Fitch AFB.

    1. Hi, Sherry! Thanks so much for inviting me today! Always a pleasure to visit The Wickeds! I do use real towns around my fake towns to ground the books a bit in reality. Also, I love your garage sale mysteries! So fun!

    2. My reply to you Sherry went into the ether so I hope I’m not repeating myself. I love the garage sale mysteries and am delighted to be visiting today – thanks so much for the invite!

  11. I don’t care if it’s a real or fictional place. What matters to me is a good, strong, solid story with interesting characters .

  12. Oh, I need to visit those islands!

    My books are set in the Florida Keys – not too much opportunity to fictionalize the city settings – they are too well known, but I do fictionalize the geography and locations as required. When I read, I don’t have a preference for real or fictional places, but if a town is based on a real location, I do like to know where. As Laurie says, it’s the writing that matters.

  13. I don’t care either way, but I love it when an author makes up a town and it seems so real that I go hunting for it on a map and the internet. And I love Connecticut coastal towns. I only lived in Hartford for 8 months before out of state, but I drove around a lot during that time. Beautiful state.

  14. If a writer is writing about some place real, I enjoy seeing if I can spot something I know. Same if I know they are fictionalizing a place I know. If the location is completely fictional, I’m find with that, too.

    Of course, if they are using a real place, it’s a fine line between allowing them license to create their fiction or not. I like to think I am fairly okay with an author twisting something to fit their plot needs (especially if they own up to it either before or after the book). However, if they get little facts wrong for no good reason, it drives me crazy. A classic example is a book I read years ago where the main character were leaving my town and going south on a particular freeway. That freeway merges onto another and ceases to exist. The authors stated that the character driving was so distracted by something going on in the car next door that they almost stayed on highway A and didn’t transition to highway B like they needed to. Sorry, but two second with Google maps would have told you what you just described isn’t going to ever happen. And there was no plot need for it to happen anyway.

    1. Yeah, I am pretty forgiving but i can be a stickler for things like that. Especially if it’s CA. The 8 and the 5 in San Diego are very specific! LOL.

  15. I’m strictly a reader. I lived nearly 70 years in Michigan and I love it when an author creates a fictional town in Michigan. My family has traveled around the state extensively over the years. I pat myself on the back when I can identify which real Michigan town the fictional one is based on. I now live on the west coast but there is a big place in my heart for anything Michigan.

  16. Well, I was replying away and all of a sudden the site said, “Nope. No more replies for you.” So, I hope this goes through. Thank you so much, Sherry, and all the Wickeds for letting me visit today. Always a pleasure! I’ll log out and back in a bit later and see if I’m allowed to post again. Have a great day, everyone!

  17. Hi Jenn! Of course you know shore towns and islands are right up my alley. I’m chiming in late today because my husband and I drove 3 hours each way to do research on a town in central Maine that makes a guest appearance in the novella I’m writing. It was founded in 1834 by the second Bishop of Boston as a Utopian community for Irish Catholics. Who knew?

    I won’t factionalized it in my story, but my main (Maine?) town of Busman’s Harbor is a factionalized version of Boothbay Harbor.

    1. I love your Maine series, Barbara! And I adore Boothbay Harbor. Maine is such a glorious state. I vacationed there as a kid and now drive through, leisurely, every year to get to our summer place in Nova Scotia. There’s a lot of room to place made up towns in Maine.

  18. Loved this one…but reading it made me realize that I missed One for the Books, so am reading that one now!

  19. I love Jenn’s Library Lover’s Mystery series. It is engaging and fun. I just finished watching Jenn and the Jungle Red Writers’ group on YouTube. So much fun! Great authors. P.S. — I hope your dog is all right, Jenn. It was fun to see him on the Poisoned Pen chat but sad to hear about his cancer. I hope everything works out for him. Thanks again for your books.

    Thanks to Sherry Harris, another favorite author of mine.

  20. If you are going to name an actual place, you blinking well better do your research. Nothing spoils a story more for a reader in the local area than to have a six-story hospital when it is only four if one includes the sub-basement and we have been struggling to keep it open as the bean-counters say we don’t have the population to justify it, Ignoring the fact that for some of our people it is forty-five minutes to get there and would be two hours at best (considering beach traffic) to make it to one they propose as a replacement,

  21. It does not matter to me at all. Thank you so much for sharing. Merry Christmas.

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