Sometimes I feel that Bianca St. Denis is my best friend. She understands me, she handles her problems the same way I do, she has similar vulnerabilities and strengths. If I could materialize her it would make me happy. We could have long talks and give each other advice. We could commiserate and empathize.
Starting with one small writing decision after another, I have slowly made Bianca a vehicle for me to externalize my issues, a way to grapple with my demons. And it is truly cathartic. I have heard of memoir writers saying that the process of writing helps them. But since I write fiction, this has been an unexpected benefit.
My first writing choice was to make Bianca either a happily married woman, an unhappily married woman or some form of single. A happily married woman would have removed certain challenges and plot opportunities. I certainly didn’t want to spend any length of time with an unhappily married woman. That left me the choice of single. But what kind of single, I wondered? I wanted her to be mature enough to have had her challenges and her pain. I made her single but once divorced and once widowed.
I did this for two reasons. It seems logical to me that a single or widowed woman would be more susceptible to challenges of all types. And it makes her vulnerable to romance as well. I say vulnerable because one of her challenges is that she isn’t in search of romance but it seems to find her. Her status as widowed makes for a more interesting, precarious story and leaves more openings for interesting plot developments.
But the widow thing…that’s very personal for me. Bianca had a beautiful marriage to her soul mate Richard. They had a twenty-year age difference which contributed to her being unexpectedly widowed at the young age of forty-two. Now Bianca finds herself alone in a new town and sets out to find her own niche within this tightknit community of eccentric characters. I am married to my soul mate, an older man, and ever since we became a couple I worried about the day he might not be here – the day when nature will claim him and I would be widowed. I grieved that moment over and over again in the early years but have come to see that as long as we make good use of our time together and produce wonderful memories to take comfort in later, that we can enjoy a beautiful full life together. Bianca’s widowhood is my way to work through this worry, to prime myself for the inevitable.
There are many personal struggles that come up in my writing: being new to a community and trying to fit in; feeling betrayed by someone; launching my child to the other side of the world and learning to be happy with his happiness despite the distance. There are others, but the autobiographical aspect closest to my own vulnerability is losing my version of Richard and how I would handle it. Thanks to Bianca, I can see more clearly where the painful pitfalls might be and where the beauty is.
A Batavia-on-Hudson Mystery: Book 2
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
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.
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.
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