Today, I’d like to welcome the wonderfully talented author, Mariah Stewart, to Reviews By Molly. Martha’s here today as a guest blogger and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I LOVE her work! Thanks, Martha, for stopping by today! (Pssst……be sure and enter the giveaway for your chance to win a copy of Hometown Girl!)
One of the most fun things about writing fiction is creating the characters in the story. The characters in the Chesapeake Diaries series almost created themselves – when I first had the idea for the series, the town more or less sprung up around on its own and presented itself as exactly the sort of town I wanted to write about: a bay town that feared its best days were behind it, a town that had lost population and industry when the polluted Chesapeake Bay could not sustain the demand for the blue crabs and the oysters that had made it famous. St. Dennis had been a town on the decline, and its residents had to work together to get it back on its feet again. Fortunately, St. Dennis had a lot going for it – it’s a picturesque town with a lot of history, and much has been done to clean up the water and reestablish the crabs habitat, so the potential was there.
St. Dennis is, of course, a totally fictional town, but that’s how I saw it when the idea for the series first started to jell: a town that was having its struggles and the people who were part of its renaissance.
Every such community needs its cheerleaders, and St. Dennis has that in Grace Sinclair. Grace grew up in the town, owns the local newspaper and knows everyone and most of their secrets. In the beginning, Grace’s role in the series was mostly that of observer and reporter, much as she is for the St. Dennis Gazette, but over time, she’s come into her own and we’re seeing her as so much more. She’s a widow who managed to keep her family together, and a mother who worries over her grown children and longs to have them home again together, if only for a while. She’s the keeper of the community’s traditions and values, champion of all she sees as good in St. Dennis.
Each of the characters in the series has his/her dreams and fulfilling that dream has contributed to the rebuilding of the community. Steffie Wyler’s ice cream shop, One Scoop or Two, has been written up in magazines and newspapers and was mentioned in a list of Things Not to Miss on the Eastern Shore. Vanessa Keaton’s upscale women’s boutique caters to the summer and weekend crowd that’s discovered St. Dennis. Movie star Dallas MacGregor has purchased several old warehouses that she’s renovating to house her own movie production company, while her brother, Wade, has joined forces with organic farmer Clay Madison to start a brewery. Clay’s sister, Brooke, has started up her own cupcake bakery. Jesse Enright has come to St. Dennis hoping to carry on his family’s legal tradition with his grandfather’s retirement. Each new character in each new story helps to smooth out the fabric of the town that has had its bumps along the way – watching each one find his or her place in the community is most gratifying for me. And of course I love being able to continue each character’s story along the way and watch their lives unfold and evolve, as, for example, with Steffie’s character. In LAST WORDS – the first book in which St. Dennis was the setting – Stef was a bit of a smart-mouth who’d had – or wanted to have – a half-hearted fling with the chief of police. In Coming Home, she’s Vanessa’s best friend, and in Home Again, while her brother is romancing the girl of his dreams, we discover who Stef has been longing for since the time she was a teenager. And in Almost Home…Steffie gets her guy when Wade MacGregor comes back to town. In Hometown Girl, we get to celebrate with them at their wedding. And so it goes, from book to book, each character’s thread unwinding just a little more.
Just like in real life, the characters grow and their lives change, and we get to go along on their on-going journey. It’s one of the things I love best about writing an open-ended series – I never have to say goodbye to the characters I love!
Thank you thank you thank you, Mariah! Looking forward to the next Chesapeake Diaries installment! It can’t come soon enough for me!