The idea for Newton Neighbors came about while I was writing Wellesley Wives.
I wasn’t really looking for a new storyline but that’s almost always when the best ideas are born.
We’re new to the area, so we like to wander around and discover places. This particular evening my husband suggested a drive and we found ourselves going by a really beautiful lake just beside Newton town. I noticed the interior lights of the houses across the lake reflecting in the water and it gave the place a magical quality. I was hooked. I wanted to live “on the water.” Michael laughed at me and told me to sell a million more books. Oh. (Actually when you read Newton Neighbors, my reaction was pretty similar to Jessica’s when she first saw it.)
Undeterred, soon after I did a little research on the web and discovered that the lake started life as Wiswall’s Pond. At least that’s what it was called during the colonial era. I’m quite sure local Indians had a different name for it before but alas, that’s lost. A man called Wiswall owned the pond so it was Wiswall’s pond - reasonable. Then the name was changed to Baptist Pond because it was used for Baptisms by the Newton Center Baptist Church - again reasonable.
Then, in the nineteenth century the name was changed once more to Crystal Lake. (I wonder were the Baptists fed up.) Did the Crystal family own it now, I thought. Was it some new religion? Not exactly. The truth is winter ice was harvested by an Ice company and they decided that people would much rather have ice that came from a Crystal Lake than a place where heathens were bathed to be converted. I think this showed great marketing skills considering it was the 1800s but more than that, this little nugget of ice was like gold for me.
I thought it was a hoot that they were coercing the poor ice drinkers of 1800 and we think big business today is the cause of all our problems. We’ve been manipulated for hundreds of years already! I heard for example that Santa Claus started life wearing green and white and it was Coca-Cola that changed him to red and white, to suit their logo. (Poor Mrs. Claus.)
I let the idea rest until I finished up Wellesley Wives but pretty soon after I got cracking on my lovely lake story. I took the dog for walks around the lake, did a lot of driving to research the real names of the streets and when I couldn’t find a Crystal Lake Lane in reality, I was able to get started.
The characters are not based on anybody I've met in Newton or women I know elsewhere. I think we all have a little Maria in us. That’s to say, we all have negative self image days. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll just say the decisions she makes might be a bit unusual but Go Her. We all have to listen to our hearts and do what’s right for us and our loved ones. She did. It took guts but she called it right, I think. Of course there’s the other inner voice too... the “I want it now,” voice. Mine speaks to me loud and clear regularly – like the day I first saw the lake and wanted to move there. This is where the character Cathi comes in. We all know women who are chasing the dream but unfortunately they’re often chasing the wrong damn dream, hence the need for good friends. It’s our close pals who tell us when our radars are off and to have a re-think.
Then there’s the folk who end up on the lake by pure chance, like Noreen who arrived before property bubbles had been invented. That’s just like real life too, no matter where we want to get to in our lives, there'll be folk there already. That’s not to say they’re luckier than us, they just have a different life path. Crystal Lake Lane proved a fabulous back drop to bring a crazy collection of people together, each with their own story and adventure to take. Mixing that with a lot of comedy and of course, cocktails has produced a great story. I sure had fun writing and researching it. You’re going to have to read it now and mail me with your opinion of ‘life on the lake’. Better again, like my page on Facebook and post your thoughts there.
When you have a copy of Newton Neighbors, get yourself a nice quiet place to read and make sure you have a long cool drink for company. Just remember to ask where the ice came from!
Lots of love,
- Suzy Duffy
Thank you, Suzy!
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