Valley News reporter Carol Thompson’s first novel is due for publication in late February.
Her book, “To Catch a Firefly,” is under cover design by Chicago-based artist Tanya Pshenychny.
The story takes place in the 1960s in the fictional town of Elm Grove, N.Y., which is modeled after Elm Grove, Wisc.
“I wanted a fictional location but I also wanted the charm and character of Elm Grove because I’ve always felt the village had the perfect backdrop for a novel,” Thompson said.
The story takes readers through the journey of 10-year-old Genevive Pearce, a spirited child who accidentally becomes caught in the political wrangling of two prominent families in Elm Grove.
Her father is the publisher of the local newspaper during a time when the families are battling for political control.
As well as innocently becoming tangled in the political feud, the protagonist must cope with her own personal losses, including the death of her brother.
The novel came about as somewhat of a fluke. Thompson had written the manuscript for another story and her agent told her to begin the second novel and complete at least six chapters.
“I had struggled with the first novel for a couple years because the switch from writing fact to fiction wasn’t easy,” she said. “I cringed when I was told I had to begin a second novel because of the time it took to write the first.”
Thompson said her agent told her to draw from within herself and write as if she was addressing only one person, not a large group of people, something that would come much easier.
It did become much easier when Thompson remembered the stories a high school friend had told her on a stormy night.
“I had a friend in my teen years who was quite the character,” she said. “One night, while trying to drive through a storm, I stopped at his house to wait it out. His mom insisted I stay the night and we were up all night talking. He told me all sorts of scary and funny stories and I had never forgotten them.
“I used those stories as a stepping off point,” she continued. “I put all of my friend’s tales down on paper and let the story evolve around them.”
Thompson said that with her friend’s stories down on paper, the writing flowed and she was able to complete approximately 2,000 words per day.
“I dedicated two hours of each day to write,” she said.
It was decided to publish the second novel first. Having lost contact with her friend for nearly 30 years, she reconnected with him to be sure it was okay to use his stories.
“He laughed because he couldn’t believe I remembered them,” Thompson said. “He was, and still is, the kind of friend who can make you laugh when your feeling down and Genevive needed a friend like that.”
Genevive and her friend, who is modeled after Thompson’s friend, become the focal points of the political upheaval in the town and in the end, the two children teach the adults a lesson in life.
“No matter what tragedies and loss we experience in our lives, we’ve never really lost anything,” Thompson said. “As Walt Whitman said so eloquently in his poem Continuities, nothing is ever really lost or can be lost, the embers left from earlier flames remain. Each of us has a history and that cannot be taken away, not through separation or death.”
That is the lesson Genevive and her friend teach to the townsfolk of Elm Grove and it is one Thompson said she hopes the reader will take away as well.
Once the cover design is complete, an exact release date will be announced and Thompson plans to unveil the book in Oswego and Elm Gove, Wisc.
It will be available in both hard copy and digital formats.