If you’re looking for the town of Dorset, Connecticut on a map, you won’t find it. When I wrote my first novel, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café, I decided to create my own town of Beacon, Maine. Although Beacon was inspired by real towns I’d seen in Maine over the years, I took bits and pieces from several places, added a hefty dose of imagination, and came up with the final setting.
I used a similar approach to create Dorset in The Rules of Love & Grammar. I grew up in Darien, Connecticut, so writing about the state where I spent most of my life was fun. In creating the adolescent backstory for the main character, Grace Hammond, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my own teen years. There’s something very comforting about going back to Darien and seeing stores and businesses that were there when I was a kid and that are still there today. This is a big thing for Grace as well, though for reasons beyond nostalgia.
Although Dorset is a fictional town, it’s an amalgam of real places in Connecticut. There’s a Sugar Bowl luncheonette in Dorset and a real Sugar Bowl in Darien. The real one was there when I was a teenager, although it looked much different then than it does today, especially inside. For the story, I gave The Sugar Bowl my own “look,” but I made it the teen hangout, just as the real one was when I was young.
I also borrowed elements from other Connecticut towns, including the harbor in Rowayton, where the Five Mile River flows out to Long Island Sound. That became the harbor in Dorset. The village greens in my summer home of Fairfield and further north in Guilford were the inspiration for the one in Dorset. The Fairfield green has a lovely gazebo, like the one in the book, and evening concerts are held there several times a month during the summer. People bring blankets and lawn chairs and children run around and dance to the music.
Miller’s Orchards was inspired by two Connecticut apple orchards – Silverman’s Farm in Easton and Blue Jay Orchard in Bethel. Silverman’s Farm is the place where, years ago, I first picked an apple off of a tree and ate it. My reaction was the same as Grace’s – it was the best apple I’d ever eaten. I still remember how it tasted and every detail about that moment.
I also borrowed other elements of the story from Connecticut, including sidewalk sales, where merchants place sale items on racks and tables on the sidewalk over a period of a day or two during July; weekly farmer’s markets where fresh produce and other goods are offered; outdoor concerts, like music on the green; and celebrations such as Founder’s Day, held to commemorate a major birthday for a town.
I had a lot of fun creating Dorset, starting with features of some of my favorite towns and adding my own touches. I ended up with a place I’d be happy to visit or call home. I’m sorry it’s not on the map.