Avalon author Roni Denholtz has put on her “reader as fan” hat and asked this month’s question or rather, questions.
I first read Tracy Lyon's "A Surprise for Abigail" and then eagerly sought out the other two books in the "Women of Surprise" series, which are all on my bookshelf. I REALLY enjoyed these books!
First, I loved the setting--which is almost a character in itself. Small town in upstate NY, in the 1880s--it's kind of like Little House on the Prairie, but with a unique twist. The town was charming. Tracey, how did you come up with this town? I know you live somewhere in NY state--is it based on anything real, or any place you've visited?
Tracey: The town of Surprise actually exists in Greene county NY. It's located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. We used to drive through it on my way to my grandmother's house. And seriously if you blink you've missed it. It had one main street and about 6 buildings in the entire town.
Roni: Second, I loved the characters. The women of Surprise in the first three books are cousins with a meddling but perky aunt. Each woman is strong but each has her own personality. What I really liked was that although they were strong women, Tracey was able to keep them likeable. I hate it when a woman is portrayed as so strong that she becomes obnoxious and I have to wonder what the hero sees in her. Tracey, how did you balance the strength of your characters with the need to make them sympathetic to the reader?
Tracey: First off the characters are cousins and I based them very loosely on myself, my sister Linda and my sister Patty. I sort of drew on each of our personality quirks and maybe exaggerated them just a touch to make it more exciting.
Roni: It seems that with this town there are many stories to be told. Will you be returning to Surprise and writing more?
Tracey: I have to be honest, here, and say that while I would love to return to the town of Surprise I probably won't be doing that any time soon due to other writing projects that I'm involved with right now needing my attention.
Roni: How did you do your research? 1880s in NY is an unusual setting--more people are writing about the wild west or Victorian England. Did you have trouble researching the books?
Tracey: Research is fun for me. Since all of my books are set in New York State they are places that I'm already familiar with. I go back to the areas take photos so I can have clear picture, pun intended, in my head when I write about the settings. As far as historical detail, I have a wonderful collection of clothing books, along with life in the 1800's books. And now of course the internet has thousands of sites devoted to life in the 1800's. The key is not to get so caught up in reading the research that I forget to write!
Roni: The heroine of the first book had an especially interesting occupation--sheriff! How did you get the idea for that?
Tracey: I loved Abigail and to have her as the sheriff was so much fun. It was the total opposite of what you'd have expected a heroine from the 1800's to be and that partly was due to the fact that the Aunt in the story was busy working her magic, making up tasks to get her nieces back to Surprise to help her save the town.