By Sheila Connolly
I came late to writing—I’m still shy of half of my working life, published for only half of that time. I wasn’t one of those people who decided at the age of eight that I wanted to write a book, although I read plenty, early and often, including a lot of books that were far above my grade level. But it never crossed my mind that I could do it myself. Then a number of things kind of imploded after 2000, leaving me with a lot of free time and a quiet place to work, and I jumped into writing with both feet.
Somehow I knew I wanted to write books set in New England. I’ve always been drawn to that corner of the country, and once I got seriously into genealogy, I realized why: that’s where half my mother’s family came from. There are over 13,000 names in my family tree, and yes, they go back to 1620. Living in Massachusetts I’m surrounded by them. And that was just her father’s side: her mother never knew who her parents were.
The Orchard Mysteries, which first appeared in print in 2008, was the first series I wrote under my own name. They’re set in a small town in western Massachusetts, which is based on a real town there. My heroine lives in a 1760 colonial house, which is modelled on one built by my seven-times great grandfather, and I’ve visited more than once. It looks much the same as it did when it was built. The orchard I write about is no longer there, but there’s plenty of proof that it existed, so I put it back. (And put one in my own yard, so I could follow the apple seasons.)
In any case, New England is the ideal setting for traditional mysteries. There are still plenty of small towns with old houses and libraries and town halls around the village green, and half the time the people who live in those towns have the same last names that appear on the tombstones in the oldest cemetery. Which means that if a murder takes place in the town, somebody who lives there is bound to have a good idea why it happened and even who did it, if you ask the right questions.
Meg Corey wasn’t thinking about any of this when she moved to my fictional town of Granford. She wanted to sell an old house that her mother had inherited and leave as quickly as possible. But she’s still there, and now she’s married to her neighbor Seth Chapin. Together they’ve been solving murders through ten books. Or maybe I should say “deaths” rather than murders, because things aren’t always as they appear at first. That’s true in A Late Frost, the eleventh book in the Orchard series.
Meg’s no longer the new kid in town: now she’s part of it. She’d made friends, learned a new business, and gotten to know the local police chief and the county sheriff better than she would have expected. Despite the unexpected deaths, Meg thinks Granford is a good place to live.