Friday, August 10, 2012


by Sheila Connolly

Did I say I wasn't going to write about politics?  If I did, I lied.  Or the press took my words and twisted them to make a more sensational story.  My latest book, Sour Apples, was released this week, and it's about…politics.

No, I don't have an axe to grind, or a party platform to promote--just a book.  But politics is an inescapable part of our daily lives, even in off-years, so for a writer to ignore it entirely in the fictional communities we create seems unrealistic.

Besides, politics is fun.  I've never run for office, but I've been part of several campaigns, both federal and local, and I can tell you that the excitement within a campaign is electric. 

I first got involved before the computer age (way, way before), typing envelopes for my hometown political committee at a penny apiece.  I got the job because I babysat for the committee chairperson.  I also handed out buttered corn at a local fair at which one of my state's congressional candidates gave a speech (and I was told in a whisper that "everybody knows that he drinks"—he was re-elected anyway).

In college I volunteered for a gubernatorial campaign, mainly out of curiosity, and most of my efforts involved handing people pamphlets on street corners, and on one memorable night, at a Bruins game at the old Boston Garden. And smiling a lot.  If you're a nice young lady, most people will take what you hand them.

When I lived in California, I volunteered for Jerry Brown's PAC (I had to do a quick check:  that was after his first stint as governor and his losses in a Senate race and two presidential bids, but before his time as mayor of Oakland and his second round as governor).  I must admit that I had no idea what a PAC was or what it was supposed to do, but my brief role got me onto the floor at the 1984 nominating convention in San Francisco, and I got to ogle a lot of Big Names I actually recognized.

Then we moved to Pennsylvania, and after a couple of years I found myself the chair of one of our local political committees, in a town with only a couple of thousand registered voters (most of whom were like-minded).  That gave me some direct contact with county and state politics—and believe me, that was an eye-opener.

And finally, I ended up as a paid staffer for a Senate candidate.  It was one of the most exciting experiences of my life.  There were a few seasoned professionals running the show, but otherwise the staff was made up of eager, enthusiastic younger people.  We worked very hard, and we had a wonderful time.  And our candidate lost, but for the right reasons (like refusing to play some traditional political games just to get votes). 

So how could I not use this experience in a book?  If you're involved in politics at all, beyond a strictly local level (my character Seth Chapin is a Granford selectman, with no higher aspirations), you take it very seriously, because a lot of people are very invested in any race.  And that leads to important questions:  is there something in the candidate's past that will come back to haunt him or her?  Just how far will the candidate go to hide that? And could that lead to murder?

And that's what Sour Apples is about.


Anonymous said...

I love this series, and I can't wait to read this one. Thanks for the preview.

Julia Buckley said...

Looks fun! I already have my copy, and what a great cover--I'm a sucker for fun cover art.

Thanks, Sheila--the story sounds neat, and politics make for good intrigue, as we know.

When I'm done I will donate my copy to my local library!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I have my copy too, Sheila. Looking forward to it!