I don’t know about you, but I’m already getting a touch of spring fever. We’ve had some warm days in my neck of the woods, but we New Englanders know better than to get our hopes up; what we are experiencing is known around here as “fool’s spring” or “false spring,” made entirely obvious by the snow squalls that came through yesterday. Blowing sideways. In the sunshine. On a forty-three degree day. Mother Nature is feeling mischievous!
I struggled to come up with a subject for this month’s blog post, as my creative juices are running a bit dry. I finally decided to write a little about the backdrop to my newest Pride and Prejudice variation, called An Unexpected Harvest (or AUH). I’ve talked before (in an older blog post that can be found here) about how I chose the location for my first novel, Sanctuary. As in that story, the setting for An Unexpected Harvest was very important and took on a life of its own. If you’ve seen any of the AUH teasers I’ve posted on Facebook or Instagram or have read any of the story here, you already know that it’s a role reversal/gender swap (honestly, I’m not sure what to call it. I haven’t figured that out yet). I decided to write Elizabeth as a wealthy city girl and Darcy as a small-town country boy. But in doing that, I needed to find locations that would fit their characters: a city for Elizabeth that would suit her well, and a town for Darcy that felt small and cozy, but contained sweeping, wide open spaces. Most importantly, the city and the small town needed to be relatively close to each other.
Happily, I didn’t have to look any further than my home state: Massachusetts. I knew Elizabeth would fit in quite well as a resident of the smallish capital city of Boston; I could easily picture her living in an upscale loft in the Back Bay, working in the Financial District in an office offering a panoramic view of the skyline, and shopping the trendy boutiques of Newbury Street. Boston proper is small and walkable, and I love that it’s full of American history. It sits on both the Atlantic Ocean and the Charles River, and is home to some of the best colleges and hospitals in the U.S. I spent much of my high school and college days prowling the city with friends, playing tourist and visiting museums and Fenway Park, Boston Common, and Faneuil Hall. There are so many nooks and crannies in the Greater Boston area to explore, like Southie, the North End, and Chinatown, each with its own distinct flavor and personality. It’s a great city, and I knew it had to be Elizabeth’s home.
Darcy was lucky enough to end up a few hours away from Boston in the beautiful town of Stockbridge, nestled in the heart of the Berkshire Mountains. There were plenty of other towns to choose from in western Mass., but I’ve visited Stockbridge and have fond memories of the quaint town and especially the gorgeous scenery. I could see Darcy living in an old farmhouse, working the lush, green fields of his family’s farm, and riding his horse through winding trails in acres and acres of woods. Stockbridge sits on the Housatonic River, and has its own share of history; it was made famous in a painting by Norman Rockwell called Home for Christmas, which features its snowy Main Street, and is also home of the Norman Rockwell Museum. And the song/tale Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, as sung/told by Arlo Guthrie, takes place in Stockbridge (and it’s a true story; give it a listen if you’ve got 18 1/2 minutes to spare!). Guthrie still resides in Washington, Mass, less than twenty miles from Stockbridge. The small town is also known for Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
My hope is that readers who take a chance with An Unexpected Harvest will feel just as connected to the world I’ve built within it as they did to Sanctuary’s Great Diamond Island and the city of Portland, Maine. In the meantime, until AUH is released at the end of May, I’ll be regularly posting photos of both Boston and Stockbridge in my Instagram story (you can find my Instagram page here). If you decide to take a peek, I hope you’ll gain a lasting impression of Boston and Stockbridge and will be able to conjure up those images as you read An Unexpected Harvest.
Thank you for visiting my blog! Have a happy March, and I’ll see you in April.