Connie Chappell closes up the Wild Raspberries trilogy with Summers Only. Each book in the series stands by itself as uniquely independent of the others. The theme remains the same: heartbreak and second chances. The characters who live these stories for the readers step off the page as real people, fully fleshed out, each with their individual flaw to overcome. This is the type of character development we’ve come to expect from Chappell’s novels. Once again, she delivers.
Chappell takes on the subject of homelessness, not a glittery subject, but from the opening scene, the reader becomes immersed in the struggles of a middle-aged, educated, malnourished woman named Terri Miller, who literally lands on the doorstep of a homeless shelter. From there, a bond forms with shelter director, Frank Cordell. They advocate for Michigan’s homeless population. Frank yearns for Terri’s full story. Terri yearns to reclaim the family life she lost, but knows is out of reach forever. The captivating story is told through the next thirty summers of Terri’s life with an edge-of-your-seat emotional conclusion.
Connie Chappell is a gifted storyteller. Summers Only is literary fiction at its very best.
Summers Only is the final novel in the Wild Raspberries series, a series readers don’t want to end. The first book, Wild Raspberries, was wildly popular. Proper Goodbye taught us about emotional heartbreak from a new perspective. Now, Summers Only takes us on a lifelong journey. Talk about weaving these stories into a trilogy.
The odd thing was, it was never my intention to write a trilogy when I sat down with the idea behind Wild Raspberries. Based on the timing aspect of the stories, each one is a prequel to the one before. Proper Goodbye, or Beebe Walker’s story, takes place in the few months at the end of Wild Raspberries left unwritten because the characters wait for a memory quilt to be sewn. Summers Only rewinds thirty years with the story of Beebe Walker’s mother, a story that couldn’t possibly be known by the characters in the first two books.
The weaving began in Wild Raspberries and Proper Goodbye. I was challenged with continuing the pattern. In reality, the storylines I needed to work with in Summers Only had been no more just filler from the second book. I wrote them with no thoughts of a third novel. When I got hooked on writing Summers Only, I had to stay true to the weave. With some thought and imagination, it was accomplished.
I am so pleased my readers enjoy this series. It was definitely a rewarding experience for me as well.
When you finished the final read-through of Summers Only, what was your favorite part of the book and why?
There were many, many read-throughs. Each time, I was excited to reach the introduction of supporting character, Seth Nugent. This character makes quite a startling and sensitive change after he’s nudged, against his better judgment, to team up with the main character and homeless advocate, Terri Miller. In his words, they “troll” for the homeless. He’s introduced in the context of his “Christian Dior suit, the one with the nice stripe,” but arrives for his day in the trenches wearing a T-shirt, sporting a troll, front and back. That day, Seth witnesses a tragedy. He admits shame and disappointment in himself “for reducing Terri’s mission to trolling, for considering it a game one wore a costume to play.” Seth matures. He’s funny. He’s seriously good-looking and a valuable addition to the story throughout.
Summers Only takes place in Michigan, but you’re not from Michigan. Was that aspect difficult?
I laugh because I would truly have been lost without a roadmap. That’s ironic since the novel’s main character is on the road, traveling from one homeless shelter to the next every summer. As the story progressed, I checked distances, highways, and county seats. Over the course of the story, Michigan was crisscrossed. My map of Michigan never left my side.
The genre for Summers Only is literary fiction, but you also write the Wrenn Grayson Mystery series. What’s the story here?
In reality, my first love was writing literary mystery. I enjoy reading mysteries in a series, so why not create my own? Currently, four Wrenn Grayson mysteries are available and I’m writing the fifth. Wrenn’s life is becoming more complex with very interesting changes on the horizon.
Is music a part of your writing world?
These days, during the actual writing at my laptop, no. My world is very quiet while I work. Early in my writing career, though, I remember times when I could not get my sluggish brain in gear, so I played Triumphal March from the opera, Aida. This is a fabulous piece of music. The title was perfect too, wasn’t it? I enjoy a variety of music. Triumphal March is on my CD of Classical Music for People Who Hate Classical Music.
To learn more about Summers Only, visit Amazon.