Over the past few weeks I’ve been telling readers a little about my new cozy mystery, A Timeless Celebration. Today I’d like to tell you a little about an important element that binds the story together: Fenwater’s sense of community.
Cozy mysteries are always set in a pleasing place for the reader to be. That’s part of what makes them ‘cozy’ and what readers expect from the genre. The setting needs to be appealing, not gritty. But it takes more than just the physical setting to make a place somewhere that readers want to be.
Doesn’t it give you a boost when you walk down the street and you meet people you know? A friendly smile, as someone asks how you are, let’s you know they care and it makes you feel like you’re where you belong.
This friendship and caring, or community feeling, is something that never fails to amaze me whenever I experience it. When I lived in Toronto, Canada, a city of around 3 million people, after I left the few streets that comprised my own neighbourhood I never bumped into anyone I knew. I wouldn’t expect to walk down Yonge Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, and see a familiar face. So when I moved to Belfast, a city of half a million, almost three decades ago, I couldn’t get over how often I met people I knew when I was shopping in the city centre on a Saturday afternoon. And I liked the warm, happy feeling I got when I stopped to chat with them.
When I later moved west across Northern Ireland, to a farm several miles from the nearest village, I was again amazed and pleased to find that when I bumped into people I knew in the village and the nearby market town they always had time to stop for a chat. I soon knew much more about the families living on the surrounding farms than I ever did about my neighbours in Toronto.
As I was writing the first six stories in The Yankee Years, a WWII historical fiction series set in County Fermanagh not far from where I live, one of the things that was important to me was to convey this strong sense of community I had encountered as it captured the distinctive, welcoming atmosphere of the place, and provided the tone I wanted to create in the stories.
So, when I got the idea for a mystery series, one of the first things I needed was a setting for it. As I considered where I wanted that to be, my mind travelled back to Fergus, a small town in Ontario that I knew well. A couple weeks ago, I told you how the physical setting of the town appealed to me: it’s quaint and has a strong Scottish flavour to it.
Spending time there with my mother when she lived in a local nursing home, I discovered the townspeople were friendly and welcoming. When I visited, I pushed my mother’s wheelchair along the peaceful banks of the Grand River, greeting other walkers we passed, and at a nearby diner where we ate lunch, the waitress always remembered my mother’s order. You quickly felt that you were welcome there, just as I later experienced in Northern Ireland. When I remembered the town’s atmosphere, I knew that it was the right setting for a cozy mystery and I set out to infuse the community feeling I experienced there into the fictional Fenwater so that readers will feel welcome there too.
A Timeless Celebration will be released this autumn. I hope you’ll read it and afterwards you can tell me whether I’ve successfully created a pleasing setting.
A Timeless Celebration will happen this autumn because more than 70 readers pre-ordered copies of the novel through its Kickstarter campaign. I’m so grateful to them for doing that. Each of those readers will receive their copy a month before the novel is released on Amazon.
The Kickstarter campaign closes this coming Friday evening. If you would like to pre-order a copy, and have a chance to receive other rewards too, you still have a few days left to do so. You will get your copy before it’s released on Amazon.
Stop by the Kickstarter campaign page for all the details: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1073238739/a-timeless-celebration-a-century-cottage-cozy-myst