Hello, book people. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating, I enjoy reading stories set in small towns but prefer living with big-city energy. I moved back to the capital city and largest city in my home state, and the population is less than 50,000. (I miss living in large cities such as Atlanta and Boston almost every day.) Although I’m a big-city girl at heart, I’m fascinated by the way authors captivate the feel of small-town life in their stories. I’m pleased to welcome Tina deBellegarde, author of Dead Man’s Leap, today. Ms. deBellegarde will be discussing with us the importance of crafting believable small-town dynamics in her writings. Thank you, Ms. deBellegarde for taking the time away from your writing, gardening, beehives, and traveling to join us today. The blog is now all yours.
Small Town Dynamics: Writing a Village Mystery
By Tina deBellegarde
One of the great joys of writing the Batavia-on-Hudson series is that I get to immerse myself in the small-town dynamics.
Ever since I was a little girl watching black and white episodes of Mayberry, all I ever wanted was to live in a town as cozy and connected as the one Opie, Aunt Bee and Sheriff Andy Taylor lived in. I savored the way the villagers all knew each other, how they celebrated and mourned together. I loved that despite their differences they treated each other as family. Mayberry was full of quirky characters but also full of realistic and idealistic characters. I luxuriated in the personal connections of all the villagers and how they cared for each other. Most of all, I took great satisfaction in the way the sheriff meted out justice through the spirit of the law above the letter of the law. I wanted to live in a town where everyone knows everyone, where I would always be an integral member.
Then ten years ago I moved to my own Mayberry. Catskill, New York is a small intimate place, where nearly everybody knows your name, where we celebrate and mourn together. We are a bunch of quirky neighbors and we accept each other as we are. Every time we open the newspaper, the good, the bad, the happy and the sad stories are about people we know.
I am both an insider and an outsider. New to town, I am naturally a member of the transplant community, a group that has grown exponentially of late. But with some effort on my part along with a job in the tiny public library, I have been accepted by the larger community of locals. My connection to the neighborhood has been such a blessing.
So, it’s no surprise that at the beginning of my writing journey, Batavia-on-Hudson materialized. I created a map of a fictitious village based on all my favorite places. Then I populated it with characters I would love to spend time with. Some are based loosely on people I know, many are purely fictitious. Then I wound them up and set them free to behave in ways that make sense for their role in the community, their personalities, their backstories.
All of my characters have extensive backstories. In many cases, only I know what they are, but I needed those backstories so that I could get to know them better. We all have extensive histories in real life, it is how we become who we are. We are the sum of all our experiences. So are the residents of Batavia-on-Hudson.
The murder or the puzzle in my books is a device that I use to drive my story forward so we can get to know the villagers, their motivations, their fears, aspirations, and flaws. We learn through the investigation that things are not what they appear, that more lies beneath the surface. These secrets may not be related to the crime being investigated, but they are eventually revealed and another layer of complexity in that particular character becomes apparent. It’s like peeling an onion.
I have come to know these villagers so well that when I think of them and speak of them, I often forget that they are fictional. They have become so real to me. Their circumstances touch me, worry me. I often find myself tearing up over an exchange between my characters. These people’s struggles matter to me. And when the story ends, and the villagers have their celebration, my heart sings. I am celebrating with them.
I have my Mayberry, it’s called Batavia-on-Hudson, and I am blessed to be a part of it. ♦
Dead Man’s Leap
by Tina deBellegarde
May 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour
DEAD MAN’S LEAP revisits Bianca St. Denis in Batavia-on-Hudson, New York
Rushing waters…dead bodies…secrets…
As Bianca St. Denis and her neighbors scour their attics for donations to the charity rummage sale, they unearth secrets as well as prized possessions. Leonard Marshall’s historic inn hosts the sale each year, but it is his basement that houses the key to his past. When an enigmatic antiques dealer arrives in town, he upends Leonard’s carefully reconstructed life with an impossible choice that harkens back to the past.
Meanwhile, when a storm forces the villagers of Batavia-on-Hudson to seek shelter, the river rises and so do tempers. Close quarters fuel simmering disputes, and Sheriff Mike Riley has his work cut out for him. When the floods wash up a corpse, Bianca once again finds herself teaming up with Sheriff Riley to solve a mystery. Are they investigating an accidental drowning or something more nefarious?
Dead Man’s Leap explores the burden of secrets, the relief of renunciation, and the danger of believing we can outpace our past.
Genre: Traditional Mystery
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Number of Pages: 254
ISBN: 1685120849 (paperback)
ISBN13: 9781685120849 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781685120856 (ebook)
ASIN: B09QXTMCR2 (Kindle edition)
Series: A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery, #2
Purchase Links #CommissionEarned: IndieBound.org | Amazon | Amazon Kindle | Barnes and Noble | B&N Nook Book | BookDepository.com | Bookshop.org | Kobo eBook | Goodreads
Tina deBellegarde has been called “the Louise Penny of the Catskills.” Winter Witness, the first book in her Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery series, was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel, a Silver Falchion Award, and a Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Award. Her story “Tokyo Stranger” which appears in the Mystery Writers of America anthology When a Stranger Comes to Town edited by Michael Koryta has been nominated for a Derringer Award. Tina’s short fiction also appears in The Best New England Crime Stories anthologies. She is the vice-president of the Upper Hudson Chapter of Sisters in Crime, a member of Mystery Writers of America and Writers in Kyoto. She lives in Catskill, New York, with her husband Denis and their cat Shelby where they tend to their beehives, harvest shiitake mushrooms, and cultivate their vegetable garden. She winters in Florida and travels to Japan regularly to visit her son Alessandro.
Catch Up With Tina deBellegarde:
BookBub – @tinadebellegarde
Instagram – @tdb_writes
Twitter – @tdbwrites
Facebook – @tinadebellegardeauthor
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