This week’s publications schedule here in Carding, Vermont is dedicated to sharing the back stories behind each of my four novels about the small town that no one can find on a map of the Green Mountain State.
I’m a professional writer, after all, and writers earn their lattes by selling books. And with the holidays coming up…well…you get the picture.
Well, we’ve reached the point of talking about my “youngest child” today, Lights in Water, Dancing. In many ways, this is the conclusion of the story that started to unfold in my third novel, The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life.
I left questions at the end of novel number three, a lot of questions, the most pressing of which was: “What happened to Boz Flaneur?”
Boz isn’t originally from Carding. In fact, what he knew about Vermont could have been contained in the dot at the end of this sentence before he showed up in Thieves of Fire.
As sometimes happens with characters, Boz was originally cast in a minor role because I needed a guy to do a job. But he turned out to be such an interesting person, I decided to explore the possibilities of keeping him around.
I dug around in his personal history and discovered that he had a family connection with the father of Edie Wolfe’s children. Then he got himself entangled in something of a three-way lover’s knot.
My coup de grace for Boz came at the end of The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life when I bounced his head off a concrete floor in Logan Airport.
Well, not me personally, you understand. It was my pen’s fault.
Lights and Dazzling also share an origin story that I heard from a quilting teacher named Jessica Leger. She came to the Upper Valley a few years ago to appear at my quilt guild and we had a quick bite to eat prior to the meeting. As we chatted, I found out that Jessica had been elected to the school board in her hometown in central Massachusetts.
Now Jessica’s a sharp-eyed woman with a no-nonsense attitude, someone whose flair for fashion and love of color would make her a natural for Advanced Style. (Seriously, you’ve got to check out this website and the documentary dedicated to the beauty and flair of older women.)
Anyway, Jessica told me that while she was campaigning for the school board, she had a conversation with the town’s chief of police about the suspicious nature of the school superintendent’s finances. How could someone on an education administrator’s salary afford a second home in an upscale resort in North Carolina and a rather large boat, she asked.
At the time, the police chief brushed her questions aside. It’s nothing, he said. Probably a trust fund or good investments.
But not too many weeks later, this same superintendent was arrested for embezzling millions of dollars from the school district, something that the police department was already investigating when Jessica asked her questions.
Having sat in on countless school board and district meetings here in the Upper Valley, I know that that these budgets are regularly torn apart in search of excess pennies. So I found it hard to understand how a superintendent could get away with such a theft.
“Easy,” Jessica said. “Those board members were just collecting credits for their resumes. They never looked at anything or questioned anything the superintendent did. They just let him run the show as they rubber-stamped his decisions.”
That conversation made my head buzz buzz buzz. It made me realize that in many ways, local governance boards, particularly in small towns, are as vulnerable to exploitation by the unscrupulous as they are to destruction by the incompetent. In fact, you could argue that small towns are sitting ducks for tricksters.
So I wondered what would happen if I made Carding the target of a pair of swindlers and stocked its school board with toadies and lickspittles?
In other words, what would happen if I sowed distrust among the folks in my favorite small town?
As it turns out, skepticism and doubt are as toxic as spent fuel rods in a nuclear power plant, a state of affairs that we see played out—sadly played out—on our national stage every day.
I think—I want to believe—that Carding will recover from this blow to its self-confidence and pride but I can’t be sure.
Hmmm, would you excuse me for a moment? I think I just tripped over an idea for another novel of Carding, Vermont.
The four novels of Carding, Vermont are available for order from your local book store or online at Amazon.com. They are great gifts for everyone who loves to read.
They are, in order of appearance:
I hope you’ll read my books and subscribe to this website so that you can enjoy stories about Carding, Vermont every Thursday.
And if you’d like to get in touch, you’re always welcome to do so through email at Sonja (at) SonjaHakala (dot) com.