For today’s Sunday Dinner, I invited Heidi Chiavaroli. Heidi is a hope-inspired storyteller writing from the deep curiosity of her own heart. Her debut novel, Freedom’s Ring, was a Carol Award winner and a Christy Award finalist, a Romantic Times Top Pick, and a Booklist Top Ten Romance Debut. Her second Carol Award-winning novel, The Orchard House, is inspired by the lesser-known events in Louisa May Alcott’s life and led her to write The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast series, a contemporary twist on Little Women. Heidi makes her home in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.
Sunday Dinner is a traditional (noon) meal served after church on Sundays. Whole families, including extended family, would gather over a large meal to celebrate a day of rest. Multiple cultures enjoy this Sunday Dinner tradition. In my experience, I know it from both my Midwestern farm family as well as my Italian-American family. Now, I’d like to bring Sunday Dinner virtually to you. So, pull up a chair as we invite various guests to join us each week!
Without further ado, please tell us something interesting readers would enjoy learning about you.
Oh, I never feel interesting enough for this question! LOL Um . . . I used to be the captain of my high school cross-country and track teams and I love to dance around my kitchen to loud party music when I’m home alone. 😉
Can you tell us about your latest novel?
Where Faith Belongs
The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast Series
Amie Martin feels passionate about many issues. Choosing to forgive her old boyfriend is not one of them . . .
Amie Martin has never been more ready to trade in her quaint seaside Maine hometown for a life of studying art in New York. But when old flame August Colton returns to Camden and proclaims his undying love, Amie is torn between her future plans and forgiving August’s secret past.
Fresh out of college, August is intent on helping the family business as an architect. He’s finally earned the respect of his brother and grandfather and he’s finally glimpsing a way out from beneath his past. But when August’s grandfather suffers a health crisis and the woman he loves shows interest in a wandering artist staying at the bed and breakfast, August wonders if he won’t be paying for his past mistakes for the rest of his life.
Can Amie and August find faith in each other again? More importantly, can they find a faith that heals the broken parts of their past?
Book 6 in The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast Series is a contemporary twist on the well-loved classic, Little Women. Readers will fall in love with the Martin family—Maggie, Josie, Lizzie, Bronson, Amie, and their mother Hannah—each trying to find their own way in the world and each discovering that love, home, and hope are closer than they appear.
Why did you choose to write a story/series set around Louisa May Alcott Little Women?
By the time I finished my dual timeline novel, The Orchard House, I was immersed in the many fascinating facts of Louisa May Alcott’s life. I wasn’t ready to let her, or her most famous work—Little Women—leave my creative muse. But with the pandemic in full swing, I was ready to turn to something a bit lighter. I decided to try my hand at my first contemporary series, imagining a modern-day Little Women with plenty of twists and turns along the way!
Can you tell us more about her Orchard House?
The setting for Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, is in Concord, Massachusetts. Louisa didn’t actually live here until she was a grown woman—until her oldest sister Anna (Meg) was already married and her younger sister, Elizabeth (Beth) had already died. But although Louisa wasn’t overly fond of her home and often dubbed it “Apple Slump,” she set her most famous work here and today it’s visited by hundreds every year.
Have you visited her Orchard House? What research was required to set a book/series around a historic site?
Yes! Visiting Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House as a girl was the first time I experienced the power of history. Standing in her bedroom, staring at the very desk where she wrote Little Women, the power of history washed over me. Louisa had been in this room. She had written a novel known around the world and dear to many girls and women. And right now, in this snapshot of time, I was the closest person to where it had all happened.
Going back to Concord as an adult was no less magical. Only this time, my mission was more than my fascination with Little Women. This time, I was going to find my own story.
In preparation to write my dual timeline novel, The Orchard House, along with visiting Concord, I also read as many of Louisa’s biographies, journals, letters, and creative works as I could get my hands on. By the time I was ready to write my contemporary series, I narrowed my focus to Little Women and gave myself a bit more creative license to stray to keep the series fresh. (When writing historical fiction, such as The Orchard House, surrounding real-life characters, I usually don’t let myself stray too far—so this was fun!)
Although the Orchard House in my contemporary series actually shares little in common with Louisa’s Orchard House, to me, that was part of the modern-day twist. To set the story in Camden, Maine as opposed to Concord, Massachusetts. To turn the home into a bed and breakfast and expand the orchard. To twist Josie’s (Jo’s) love interest, to have Maggie (Meg) have twin stepsons, to allow Lizzie (Beth) to live, etc. So fun for me!
Your Orchard House Bed and Breakfast series is based on the March family. How did you balance staying close to story of Little Women while writing a contemporary series?
My main concern was to keep the core of the family the same as Little Women. So, no father present, but a mother, four daughters and a crotchety great-aunt. Of course, I wanted to add in a brother just for fun! My next concern was to keep the characters as consistent as possible with those in Little Women. While can’t pretend I did this anywhere close to perfectly, it’s been fun imagining what the March sisters would be like in this century.
Were resources easy or difficult to find on these topics? Do you have a favorite resource?
Since I had already done extensive research on Louisa May Alcott, my main resource for this series was Little Women itself.
What is one piece of your research that you couldn’t include in the book, but wish readers could know?
What I found fascinating when researching Louisa was the fact that she was so adamant about Jo and Laurie not ending up together. In fact, after the first part of Little Women was published (it released in two parts), she wrote, “Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman’s life . . . I won’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone.”
This is where she created a sort of compromise with Professor Bhaer. In Where Grace Appears, the first book in the series, was fun for me to imagine what would happen if Jo did end up with Laurie.
Do you have another book in the works? What can you tell us about that book?
Right now, I am working on the final book in The Orchard House Bed and Breakfast Series, Where Promises Remain. This is Marmee’s story—my character Hannah—and I’m having so much fun writing it!
Five years after her husband’s death, Hannah Martin runs a successful inn and serves the needy in her community. Despite a house full of guests, she finds herself battling the loneliness that comes with an empty nest. Now that no one needs her for anything other than serving her famous five-course breakfasts and retrieving fresh towels, she throws herself into winning Camden’s Hospitality Grant. With the help of the grant, the bed and breakfast will bring in even more customers and Hannah won’t have time to think about what she’s missing.
When a handsome lumberjack named Kevin moves in next door, Hannah’s attraction to the widowed bachelor, who is not quiet about his interest, knocks her off kilter. Just as she begins to explore the companionship a new relationship offers, a young woman arrives at the bed and breakfast, claiming to be the daughter of Hannah’s late husband.
Hannah wades through shock and disbelief as a fellow innkeeper ramps up her attempt to sabotage The Orchard House’s chances for the Hospitality Grant. When Kevin questions all she’s been working toward and her “new” daughter gets into more trouble than any of her own flesh-and-blood children ever did, Hannah must decide what matters most—before she loses the grant, the good reputation of the bed and breakfast, and a second chance at love.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
I feel like I “talked” enough! LOL But I do love hearing from readers!
The afternoon is slipping away, so we have to draw the stories to an end. Heidi, thank you for joining us today!
If readers would like to purchase a copy of Where Faith Belongs where might they be able to do so?
If readers would like to learn about you or your other books, how might they find you online?
My website is a perfect starting point, with links to social media sites I’m active on as well! I’d love to hear from you! heidichiavaroli.com.
Over Sunday Dinner next week, I’ll be sharing some of my research into my upcoming historical romance Confessions to a Stranger. See you then!