THAT CHESAPEAKE SUMMER
THE CHESAPEAKE DIARIES — BOOK #9
ON SALE JUNE 23!!!!!
“...(Stewart) deftly uses the tools of the genre to explore issues of identity, truth, and small town kinship...a strong statement on the power of love and trust, a fitting theme for this big-hearted small town romance.” — Publishers Weekly
The beginning of summer always makes me think of a long ago June when I was about to turn seven. That was the worst summer of my life: I’d been diagnosed with whooping cough (my mother said our doctor told her I was the last recorded case in our county) and doomed to spend the entire thirteen weeks from June straight on through till August trapped in the house. From my bedroom window I watched my neighborhood friends ride their bikes past our house, which sat pretty much in the middle of the block. In the evenings, I’d hear my friends calling to each other as they played that last game of hide and seek. The Mason jars they’d filled with fireflies made streaks of light across the darkened back yards as everyone raced home.
What saved me — and my mother’s sanity — was the public library. Every other day, my older brother would ride his bike to the brick building down by the lake and trade the books I’d read for three or four more. I’d eagerly go through the stack to see what gems the librarian had selected for me that day, then I’d place them in order of reading preference, curl up in the chair in my room, and I’d read. Two days later, he’d repeat the trek, and return with a new stack.
Thirteen weeks later, the whooping cough was gone, but my love of stories has stayed with me to this day. It was through those books selected for me by a kind librarian that I learned how to tell stories of my own. I wrote sequels to my favorite books, then made up stories of my own, and by the end of the summer, I had several black and white composition books filled with my first attempts at fiction. I hid those notebooks under my bed so that no one would find them and judge my efforts unkindly.
I don’t know what eventually became of those composition books, but I’m grateful for those early clumsy efforts to plot, write dialogue, and describe settings. Would I have become a writer had I not spent a summer in solitude with little to amuse myself other than my imagination? I don’t know. I do know that by the time August came to an end, I’d developed an undying love for libraries, and I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Now, here’s the thing about writing fiction: everything is fodder for your imagination. Sometimes the most insignificant thing sticks in the back of your mind, like the way someone covers their face when they laugh, or rolls their eyes when they are exasperated, or glances to the side before they are about to tell a lie or pass on a tidbit of gossip. That person who always has to toot their own horn, the co-worker who is way smarter than anyone thinks, the kid in your class whose good manners hides a nasty mean streak...they stay in your head, too. Not that you immortalize a particular person in your work, but the little things they do might inspire a character, just as something you read — or something someone says — might inspire a plot. Words, impressions, can stay tucked away in the recesses of your mind for years, forgotten, until something jogs your memory, and voila! A book is born!
Here’s an example:
When I was young — maybe five or six — my family attended the wedding of a friend of my father’s. The groom’s sister apparently had been an early girlfriend of my dad’s — I think she was the girl my dad had dated before he met my mother. I have the distinct memory of this tall, dark haired woman looking down at me and saying, “I could have been your mother, you know.”
At the time, I had no idea what that meant, nor did I realize she was engaging in a bit of harmless banter as a way of teasing my dad for breaking up with her.
“I could have been your mother...”
Since someone had just moments before lifted my chin and said, “You certainly do take after your mother,” I was really confused. If this other woman had been my mother, would I “take after” her? Or would I still “take after” the mother I knew? It was all too deep for me at such a young age.
That little encounter — and the questions it raised — stayed with me: what if it turned out that my mother — the one everyone said I “took after” — wasn’t my mother after all?
It was only a matter of time before that thought started tapping on that part of my brain where ideas are woven into stories and it took on a life of its own.
You can see how that thought played out come June 23, when THAT CHESAPEAKE SUMMER is released for publication. Readers have been asking forever for widower and workaholic Dan Sinclair to have a life. He’s been running the Inn at Sinclair’s Point since his father died when Dan was just out of college. With two kids to raise and a thriving business — he hates to delegate — he hasn’t had time for much of a social life, and he doesn’t think he needs one. And then Jamie Valentine shows up for a month-long stay at the inn.
Jamie is the best-selling author of a series of self-help books that all are based on the idea of honesty in all things. After her widowed mother’s unexpected death, Jamie comes across some papers which lead her to believe she isn’t who she thinks she is. Seeking the truth, Jamie heads for St. Dennis, where she thinks the answers might be found. In the end, she finds a whole lot more than she bargained for...
I love the way the PW review quoted above put it: “…a strong statement on the power of love and trust.”
I hope you enjoy reading about Jamie and Dan’s journey as much as I loved writing it.
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THAT CHESAPEAKE SUMMER is my thirty-fifth book — and marks my twentieth year as a published author! Woo hoo! I’m no longer writing in black and white composition books, but my love of stories is still going strong. I hope yours is, as well.
Till next time ~