The Hidden Life of a Village

A few days ago, a reporter for one of the small Topsail Island newspapers called to interview me about my recent trip. I really liked her approach to the topic: she didn’t want to know about the story as much as she did about my experience doing the research. We had a good long chat, and then she asked me if anything I discovered surprised me. There were certainly numerous small surprises, but I think what surprised me the most was that there is quite a bit going on beneath a very quiet surface. As I mentioned before, when I first arrived I felt like the only person on the Island. It was so quiet and still and there were very few cars on the road. Then I met the realtors, Lottie and Patsy, followed by the people who operate the little copy center where I could get on line, and then Topsail teen, Anna, and the firefighters. And I read the local paper. Suddenly it became clear that there was a lively network of people and places beneath the quiet facade. That was my surprise–a pleasant one.
I often set my books in out of the way places. Although I’ve never lived in one, I seem drawn to small towns and the way the lives of the residents intersect with one another. I don’t know if I’d like that lifestyle, but I certainly like writing about it.


  1. Kathy Holmes on October 19, 2006 at 9:02 am

    Interesting point about how setting the story in a small town allows the characters to intersect. I received great responses from my book set on a cruise ship for that very reason – the characters were so interconneced. I may have to give that small-town setting a try. 🙂 You’ve really got me intrigued by Topsail and I’ll look forward to your book.

  2. Diane Chamberlain on October 19, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    A cruise ship is a great idea for forcing characters to deal with one another, Kathy. In my first novel, I had a bunch of people live together in a house on the ocean. In the second, a bunch of people were stranded together in the Amazon! For the third, SECRET LIVES, it was a small fictional town in the Shenandoah Valley. The fourth, FIRE AND RAIN, a small fictional town in San Diego County and on and on. I never really thought about it before. It must be the old family therapist in me that makes me want people to have to deal with one another and their conflicts.

  3. Krysia on October 20, 2006 at 4:11 pm

    Small towns are great. I grew up in a small town (around here it’s considered a larger town). I loved it, only thing is everyone knows you and you can’t get away with much. I currently live in the largest town here and I hate it. It’s loud and smelly and no matter where I live I can still hear way too much city. I do have a beautiful view of a tree grove that was very beautiful in the snow Wednesday. My dad lives in a town of maybe 100 (counting dogs, cats and chickens) and I love going there. It’s sooo quiet.

  4. Diane Chamberlain on October 20, 2006 at 11:13 pm

    Krysia, I hope some day you can live in a small town again.

  5. Krysia on October 24, 2006 at 1:29 am

    It’ll probably be when I retire as most small towns don’t offer what I went to school for. But it’ll be something to look forward to for the next 40+ years.

  6. Diane Chamberlain on October 24, 2006 at 9:49 am

    krysia, it’s got to be really weird for you to think about retiring! tell us what you went to school for?

  7. Krysia on October 24, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. And I have to think about it, well atleast plan for my financial future. I can’t wait to retire I hate working, it’s draining on me…blah…but if I could just win the lottery….hmmm…..

  8. Brenda on October 24, 2006 at 6:36 pm

    Krysia-so funny…you are so sweet and YOUNG…I understand about planning for the future…when my doctors told me I needed to retire, my answer,
    “Well, my exhusband supports his present wife…my present husband supports his ex wife…and I have to work–I have not taught long enough to retire…)
    That’s life. I am 59…and thought I would not be in this position…However-on the good side-I was a stay-at-home mom for many years…my husband had a great job, and we were able for me to do that…I had my turn…
    My present husband is older than I–retired-but as I said…
    We live on my salary as a not-so-experienced (in years) teacher and his social sec…that is the way it is now…
    As to retiring–I will never retire…I will work as long as I can-and hopefully keep getting degrees and writing…that keeps me a young 59…despite health problems.
    If you hate working-then do another career…that’s what I did…

  9. Diane Chamberlain on October 24, 2006 at 8:47 pm

    krysia, you are so smart to think about your financial future! wish i thought about it more when i was your age.
    you work in a hardware store–are you going to be able to use your criminal justice degree?

  10. Krysia on October 24, 2006 at 11:08 pm

    I’ve used my degree once, I alerted my store manager to a guy who was buying meth products. That’s the extent. We don’t have loss prevention which I wouldn’t mind doing but I love working with people. I apply for jobs in my field all the time but have a strange feeling I’m going to have to leave my happy place in the midwest and go south. My dad wants me to go to Louisiana so he can hunt gators. I can’t understand what people say down there.
    I’ve watched my two grandfathers struggle financially and don’t want to do the same. One is 79 and has to work a pt job to keep up with his bills and my other grandfather who is 73, his ss is just enough to pay his monthly bills and he lives off of his girl friend (the woman I’ve called grandma for 26 years) income. I don’t want to live like that even though I live that way now.
    I’m mentally organized but man it’d be nice if I could exert some of it outta my brain and kick my procrastinating butt into gear. Haha.
    Man I ramble….

  11. Diane Chamberlain on October 25, 2006 at 12:08 am

    krysia, how about north carolina? not so far south that you’d have trouble understanding what people are saying (lol). are you saying there are more jobs for you in the south? is it hard to get a job with a BA in your field? i know when i got my social work degree, i couldn’t get a job in the field until i got my masters.

  12. Krysia on October 25, 2006 at 6:44 pm

    It’s not hard, but where I live there are roughly 365,000 people in the entire state. So it leaves me with few options. I could go to Wyoming but I never cared for it much as a child and I lived in Minnesota for 2 years and didn’t like it there either. I know I could get more money in the Southeast or Southwest part of the country and there are a lot more people there too. I’m also to short for a lot of the jobs, like I am 3 inches to short to be a state trooper. But I keep my hopes up and am trying to get a job where I can save money to move, possibly to a place that never snows in June or September. If I got a masters I could work for the FBI but they don’t pay well for someone with a masters. Most jobs don’t require a degree at all but it puts you ahead of the game.
    You could have been a Social Worker in SD with just a BA. Just food for thought I guess.

  13. Diane Chamberlain on October 27, 2006 at 12:05 am

    brenda, i somehow missed your comment (a few comments above). i can’t imagine you ever retiring! you’d be so bored.
    krysia, i still think you should look at NC.

  14. Krysia on October 27, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Maybe that could be my trip to “figure out my life” which I deperately need to figure out all this stuff in my head. I’d like to visit before I’d uproot to the east coast. I’ll have to check out B&N on some travel books.

  15. Brenda on October 27, 2006 at 4:54 pm

    West Virginia-and we are not all that destitute-is open with Criminal Justice. The cost of living-if you avoid the area where I live-Yuppy ville-is not that much-houses in this area are too much…
    However, having lived in South Carolina–it is much cheaper to live there…
    Also lived in Ohio-taxes there are more…
    You are YOUNG-have lots of options…
    When I was in my 40’s-went back to college-gave up everything financially-became a teacher in S.Carolina where I KNEW NO ONE AT ALL…it was awe inspiring…I was on my own for the first time in my life…

  16. Diane Chamberlain on October 27, 2006 at 5:57 pm

    I admire people who have the guts to make dramatic changes in their lives like you did, Brenda. and like you’re comtemplating, Krysia. Moving to NC with John was my big change. it wasn’t all that dramatic, but i’ve lived in one area for 22 years, so it was strange at first. now i’ve got lots of friends and in retrospect, it was easy.
    I have a friend who used to be a romance writer. After she had a devastating divorce and a car accident that almost killed her, she sold her house, bought a little camper/RV thingy, and took off across the country. She did odd jobs and lived the life of a vagabond for about 4 years, then moved to China to teach English for 2 more. Now THAT is a lady with guts!

  17. Krysia on October 27, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    That’s funny, some of my family is traced back to West Virginia, the last name is pretty famous in those necks. I have made up my mind though, I’d like to live in a place that has seasons. Living here it’s either cold or hot and very little in between. Maybe I’ll skip B&N (hate that place anyways) and go hang out with the homeless people at the library reading up on different places. I know when I moved here I packed my car as full as I could said bye to my mum and headed 100 miles south and spent 2 months crashing at people’s houses and finding a job and a home. If I wasn’t in a relationship I’d do it right now. Oh well. Hope your week goes well at the “haunted” mansion.

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