Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Location, Location, Location...in A Groovy Kind of Love

Happy Monday. Hope everyone had a great weekend. It was a little warmer here in Chicagoland, which was fantastic, even though I was inside for much of Sunday at my son's indoor lacrosse showcase. Still, it was better than driving in the snow like we did last week, that's for sure!

Still euphoric over the release of A Groovy Kind of Love and all of the positive reviews that keep coming in, today I thought you'd might like to see some of the sights that influenced the book's settings.

First, there's Thaddeus's boyhood home in the Irving Park neighborhood of Chicago. I grew up not that far away in Elmwood Park, which is what I call a city-suburb, not officially part of Chicago, but on the boarder, so it feels way more like a city than an actual suburb like, say, Naperville.

Photo courtesy of www.wbez.com.

When I was growing up, Irving Park was famous for the Buffalo Ice Cream Parlor. Here's a photo of it back in the day. It's closed now, but most people who grew up when Thaddeus and I did visited on more than one occasion.

The Chicago Cultural Center used to be the library at one point, definitely circa 1970 when Thaddeus received his library card when he turned five. It's a spectacular building with the glorious largest Tiffany stained-glass dome and quotes about books that line the walls in mosaic splendor. When I worked downtown, I'd come here for the Dame Myra Hess concerts during my lunch break for chamber music that was my little oasis of peace within my deadline-filled days with Fire Chief magazine.

Photo courtesy of The City of Chicago official website.

Photo courtesy of www.visitoakpark.com.

Spring's college was inspired by my own. With its neo-gothic architecture, gorgeous old trees, and cloister walk, I knew this was the place for me as soon as I stepped foot on campus. A few other buildings and a parking structure have been added since I graduated. Heck, even the name changed from Rosary College to Dominican University, but the spirit remains the same, and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Here's a picture of the Alfred Rubin Community Center in Naperville, where I envisioned the Bibliophiles book club meetings took place.

Photo courtesy of www.napervilleparks.org.

Photo courtesy of Biz Yellow.

This is the building where I imagined Ambrosia, the Pearson's juice bar, to be, right across from the Riverwalk. Funny coincidence that a Red Mango yogurt and smoothie place moved in a bit ago, but I had already created Ambrosia before Red Mango came to town.

And here's the gorgeous Meson Sabika restaurant where Thaddeus and Spring had their first date. The perfect location, don't you think?
Photo courtesy of Positively Naperville.
Well, I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of some of the locations in my latest release, A Groovy Kind of Love, which is available in paperback at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. The ebooks are sold at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Apple iBookstore, Smashwords, and Kobo. Don't forget to add it to your shelf at Goodreads. Thanks much.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Winners, Reviews, and Book Tour: Oh My!

The A Groovy Kind of Love release fun is still going strong. The winners of the release day party favors are...

Chrys: Starbucks card
Heather: Amazon card
Karen: Red Mango card
Ceblain: Copies of A Whisper to a Scream and Until My Soul Gets It Right
Laurie: Copies of A Whisper to a Scream and Until My Soul Gets It Right

Gift card winners, drop me a note at karen@karenberner.com to let me know to which email you'd like me to send the gift card and book winners, also please email me with the format you'd prefer: Kindle, Nook, or paperback. Congratulations and a big thanks to everyone who stopped by.

Reviews are starting to roll in, and I'd like to share a few comments from two five-star reviews from excellent sites.

Probably the most famous of all indie review sites, BigAl's Books & Pals has given A Groovy Kind of Love five stars. That completes the Bibliophiles series trifecta of five-star ratings from Al, which couldn't make me more happy.

Here's a bit of what he said.

"This installment focuses on Thaddeus, a straight-laced Anglophile, and Spring, the daughter of hippie parents. While more conventional than her parents, the free-spirited Spring is still influenced by her upbringing enough to be much different than Thaddeus. It’s a classic case of opposites attracting, with each learning from the other and in the process tempering their more extreme tendencies for the better. There are also some lessons in how our childhood influences the adults we eventually become, whether from embracing or rebelling against our roots."

To read the full review, click here

Another wonderful review site, The Book Dilettante, also gave A Groovy Kind of Love five stars. 

Here are some of her comments. Read the full review here

"This novel took me right back to memories of the 1960s and the hippie generation - the lighter memories of flower paper dresses (in my case) and antiwar protests. It's also a novel for book lovers and romance lovers, as the main setting is a classics book club in the picturesque village of Naperville, Illinois, where two very different people meet, their major similarities being their love of reading.

Spring is a flower child, a product of her hippie generation parents. Thaddeus comes from a traditional family with more reserved parents. How they meet and complement each other is the heart of this story. And how they face tragedy while expecting a normal life is also part of this exquisite romance and contemporary novel." 

Exquisite? Wow.

Monday also kicked off the first of two online book tours I'll be doing. One lasts through the end of the month, while the second kicks off February 2. It's all very exciting, seeing excerpts, guest blogs, and interviews on so many blogs. 

Here's the schedule for my first tour with Promotional Book Tours, January 12-30.

Life with Katie
Guest Post
My Life Loves and Passion

Andi’s Book Reviews

The Crafty Cauldron 

Clutter My Kindle
The Mama Chronicles

Divine Books

Niki’s Book Corner 
A Mama’s Corner of the World

Second Book to the Right

Literary Sweet 
Guest post
What U Talking Bout Willis

Taking Time for Mommy 

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Love Story for People Who Love Books

Happy Release Day, everyone!

I’m so excited to share A Groovy Kind of Love with you. Don’t worry if you haven’t read the first two Bibliophiles books. Each is written as a stand-alone, so you won’t be lost if you pick up A Groovy Kind of Love first.

Before I tell you a little about the novel, may I offer you an appetizer? Perhaps a drink?

How about a smoothie? Very apropos considering co-protagonist Spring Pearson's family owns a juice bar famous for them. Or maybe something stronger? It is a party, after all.

And before I forget, all you have to do is write a comment below for a chance to win a Starbucks, Amazon, or Red Mango gift card. Fun fact: A Red Mango frozen yogurt and smoothies store occupies the building that the Pearson's Ambrosia juice bar does in my fictional Naperville. I’m also giving away the first two books in the Bibliophiles series, A Whisper to a Scream and Until My Soul Gets It Right. Just my little thank you for stopping by on this big day.

When I started out back in 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. Fresh from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest (A Whisper to a Scream was a quarterfinalist), I figured I’d throw it out as an ebook and see what happened. It was a new era in publishing, and I was eager to be a part of it.

Over the years, I’ve met a lot of great people both through the virtual world and face to face at book fairs, readings, and book club visits. I’ve shared excellent writers on this blog’s Flash Fiction Fridays during Bibliophilic Blather’s first couple of years, discussed my favorite books and authors, and even helped a few people with grammar issues with my old feature, "Editing for Grammarphobes." It’s been a fantastic ride.

This writing thing, it gets into your blood and embeds into your core. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I love every day.

I have a fantastic team that has works with me to publish the Bibliophiles books. A huge thanks to Streetlight Graphics who designs both the paperbacks and ebooks, Red Adept Editing, my beta readers and ARC team. And last, but never least, my husband and sons for their endless support and for putting up with me and my artistic self.

Now to the matter at hand. Drumroll, please.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you A Groovy Kind of Love.

Uptight British lit lover meets a free spirit at a book club and his world is turned upside down! Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV was content with his Brit coms and books until he met free-spirited Spring Pearson at a book club meeting. But will an old college pinkie-swear promise Spring made fifteen years ago get in the way of this bibliophilic romance?

It is available at the following online retailers.

Barnes and Noble
Apple iBookstore

Add it to your Goodreads to-read list here.

To celebrate Groovy's release, the first two books in the series, A Whisper to a Scream and Until My Soul Gets It Right are on sale for just 99¢ for the ebooks. The paperbacks are also discounted a bit.

If you could, would you mind sharing it with your friends and spread the word? I’d really appreciate it. Thanks. You’re the best.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, and don't forget to comment for a chance to win the prizes.

Karen xx

P.S. Here's Phil Collins's 1988 remake of the song originally released by The Mindbenders in 1966.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Meet the Pearsons from 'A Groovy Kind of Love'

Whether it's characters from a book or real-life people, understanding where they came from provides a window into their souls. Here's an excerpt from my newest novel, A Groovy Kind of Love, which will be released Monday, 1/12, that introduces the Pearsons, owners of the juice bar Ambrosia and Spring's parents.

A Groovy Kind of Love
Chapter Ten

San Francisco, California, 1980

Spring Pearson was the result of her parents’ impetuosity in the women’s restroom of the Oakland Coliseum after a Grateful Dead performance. Jefferson Starship was there, as well as another band, but Bob and Donna couldn’t ever remember which one. Unable to control themselves any longer, the two ran into a stall and, well, you know. This being a Dead show, female concertgoers were used to seeing all sorts of strange occurrences, real or otherwise, so no one paid them any mind. After all, rumors had circulated about the band pumping in hallucinogens during some of their shows.
Bob Pearson had been in the maternity ward waiting room for almost eight hours, there the entire time, except for forty-five minutes when he grabbed a sandwich from the cafeteria and made two phone calls to their parents, updating them on Donna’s status. The baby simply refused to come out.
“Mr. Pearson?” A nurse dressed in pink scrubs rushed toward him. “She’s dilated to nine, almost ten centimeters. It won’t be long now.”
“How is she?”
“Doing well. I’ll let you know when it’s over.” She scooted back through the automatic doors.
Bob wished he were by Donna’s side in the delivery room, like some hospitals were beginning to allow, but County General wasn’t one of them. Crowd noises escalated from the waiting room’s television, where New England Patriots kicker John Smith made his way onto the field. Bob had been there so long, he’d almost forgotten it was Monday night. Stressed out and anxious, he was craving some sweet Mary Jane. He wanted to mellow out with the outta-sight Hawaiian Punta Butter on his dresser, but he probably didn’t have enough time to get home and back before the baby was born. “Would you turn that thing off?” he harped at the orderly tidying up a magazine pile. “My wife’s in labor.”
“No kidding,” the orderly answered, stacking Sports Illustrated on top of Time. “Shush, be quiet.”
Monday Night Football announcer Howard Cosell was saying something about an unspeakable tragedy in New York City. The orderly turned up the volume. Former Beatle John Lennon had been shot outside his apartment building. He was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
The girl behind the reception desk gasped.
John Lennon? Who would shoot John Lennon? Bob and Donna had seen him perform with Yoko, Stevie Wonder, and Bob Seger at the rally to free John Sinclair in Michigan back in seventy-one. “Working Class Hero” gave Bob the chills. Now he’s dead? He held his head and closed his eyes, trying to absorb the words.
“Mr. Pearson? Mr. Pearson?”
“You have a daughter.”
They named her Spring in hopes of a better world, one in which people like John Lennon would not be shot, a world of love and respect for all humans and creatures of the earth, a world with true freedom and open-mindedness, a world free of corporate greed.
They were still waiting.


 Born in 1950, Bob and Donna Pearson were both products of what society deemed “proper sex,” which was pretty much reserved for straight, white married couples. ’Twas a Puritan age in which elders warned against premarital relations and nuns told horny teenagers if they masturbated, they would either go blind or get hairy palms. They were sixteen years old when Masters and Johnson’s Human Sexual Response was published, and suddenly everyone was talking about “it.” The Sexual Revolution hit America, and if it felt good, teenagers everywhere were doing it. Skirt hemlines got shorter. See-through blouses and other exotic clothes became fashionable. Bell bottoms. Hip huggers. Middle Eastern caftans. Halter tops. Tie dye. Velvet. Paisley. Nehru jackets. Jeans. Feathers. Beads. Nude beaches. Afros, long hair, sideburns, mustaches, and beards for men. Women stopped shaving their legs and underarms and ditched their mini-corset bras. Exotic-sounding deities replaced the old man god of the Bible and had names like Ganesha, Shiva, and Buddha. The only rule was “No Rules.” They were free, man, and it was far out!
“They don’t know what to think of us, man.” Bob’s friend, Jim, took a long drag and inhaled deeply, careful not to allow any smoke to escape, then passed the joint to the chick Dave had been ballin’ for the past week. “They don’t get what freedom really means. People have to express themselves.”
“Freedom is the enemy of the establishment,” Bob added. “Institutions enslave people, dude, whether it’s the government, the church, or the class system.”
“Right on, man.” Jim got up and held Bob’s shoulder, steadying himself. “Got a line on some White Lightning. You want in?”
After a bad trip three months before when he woke up on Telegraph Hill under Coit Tower, Bob had been staying clear of acid. He still hadn’t found those pants. “Nah, I’m pretty fried.”
The girl struggled to rise, looking more like a newborn giraffe than the sex freak Dave raved about. “I’m in.”
“You got bread?” Jim asked. The chick was a notorious joneser.
She nodded.
“Show me.”
She rummaged through her crochet-fringe macramé purse and pulled out a wad of bills. “See? I’ve got the dough.”
“Then, right this way, my dear.” Jim put his arm around her, and the two sauntered out the door.
Bob took one last toke.
“It’s true what you said about institutions oppressing people,” said a girl with long brown hair parted down the middle. She was thin but shapely in her orange T-shirt with a fat dove on the front, long, printed skirt, and Birkenstock sandals. “It benefits them to keep up the status quo. Changes throw them off balance and threaten their power base.”
Bob thought she was plain adorable underneath that straw hat with those heavy black eyeliner dots around her eyes that made them look like sunflowers. “What’s your name?”
“Want to get something to eat? Munchies, man. I’m feelin’ a burrito. How about you?”
Inseparable, Bob—who later changed his name to Raindancer—and Sunshine—who’d been christened Donna—went to the same college, the University of California at Berkeley, and spent their summers touring the country in a Volkswagen van with huge orange and yellow flowers painted on each powder-blue side in search of the grooviest concerts and the most influential sit-ins and marches.
       In 1968, they were among the anti-war protestors who joined with members of the Youth International Party and the Students for a Democratic Society, ten thousand in all, who shouted, “The whole world is watching,” while the Chicago Police drove a paddy wagon right into the middle of the crowd and began wielding their clubs. They hurled tear gas into the crowd. Sunshine stumbled, gasping for air, each breath a thousand flames. Tears streamed down her face. Unable to see where she was going, she ran right into a cop, who cuffed her and threw her in the paddy wagon.        Fortunately, Bob had managed to get away and came down to the station to bail her out. They had an emergency plan in case of such an event. It wasn’t the first time either one had been arrested for civil disobedience.
Bloodied and bruised afterward, Sunshine wondered what was so wrong with peace… well, except that it inhibited to the military industrial complex’s profitability. War had gotten the United States out of the Great Depression. War was “good” for the economy. “And what about freedom?” she would ask anyone who would listen. “Wasn’t that supposed to be one of America’s founding principles, too?”
Only for those with power and money.
And the Hippies had neither.
Those were heady days, back when they thought they could change the world, and they did, to a certain extent. The antiwar, pro–civil rights, pro–women’s rights marchers changed cultural norms and broke barriers for many Americans. They did not succeed in transforming much of the government’s policies, however, something that stung Sunshine’s heart more than the tear gas in her eyes.
Before long, the movements started to disband, as movements oftentimes do. Raindancer and Sunshine were getting older. Floating from crash pad to crash pad and living out of the van grew tedious. How would they support themselves? They hadn’t put in all those hours of marching just to surrender to some nine-to-five, conformist, corporatist life. Bob had some money saved from a small inheritance from his grandfather, so they packed up the baby and what little they had and drove to Illinois because they heard property was a lot cheaper there than in California. Unfortunately, the Second City proved still too pricey for the Pearsons, so they settled about forty miles west of Chicago, in a town called Naperville, and purchased a storefront property across the street from the DuPage River on the border of downtown. At that time, real estate was cheap, just the right price for the two transplants from California once known as Raindancer and Sunshine. Plus, the building came with a small apartment above the shop. There they would begin building their own little utopia with peace, love, and organic ingredients.

Copyright © 2014 by Karen Wojcik Berner

A Groovy Kind of Love is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Meet Thaddeus from 'A Groovy Kind of Love'

Here's an excerpt from my newest novel, which will be released on Monday, 1/12. Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV is a singular sort, content with his English lit and Brit coms until his world is knocked upside down when he meets the much younger, free-spirited Spring Pearson at a book club meeting.

A Groovy Kind of Love
Part One
Chapter One

Chicago, 1970

We all have a first memory, one dug deepest in that part of the brain that commemorates the dawn of our cognizance. For some, maybe it’s their first plush toy. Others might recall bouncing on their fathers’ knees. Thaddeus had none of these. His awakening began the first day his mother brought him to the library.
“Bundle up, sweetie.” Maureen Mumblegarden pulled five-year-old Thaddeus’s coat collar up around his neck. “Can’t forget the mittens.” She snapped them onto large strings dangling from his coat sleeves, and yelled down the empty hallway, “Let’s go, Addie.”
His sister slogged to the foyer. “Why can’t I stay by myself? Granny’s right downstairs.”
“You’re not old enough. What if you start a fire trying to heat up some SpaghettiOs?” Mother zipped up her Borgana coat. “The whole place would be up in flames before Granny could even make it up here.”
“But I’m nine!”
“She’s gonna make me watch As the World Turns!”
Mother grabbed her purse and keys. “Bring a book or something to occupy yourself while Granny watches her soap operas.”
“Enough! This is a special day for your brother, and I won’t have you ruining it.”
At the bus stop, Thaddeus stood perfectly still, afraid that if he moved even an inch, one of the cars whizzing past would roll over his foot and crush his big toes. His left hand grew sweaty inside its mitten from gripping his mother’s glove so tightly. A few feet away, cars lined up on the street in front of a dark-green shack. An older man with an apron tied around the waist of his parka handed newspapers through passenger-side windows. Pedestrians grabbed their copies from huge stacks and threw dimes in an old cup. Overstuffed racks held magazines, some of which Thaddeus recognized from the coffee table in the living room.
Maureen purchased a copy of Highlights for him and a Ladies Home Journal for herself. “Something to keep us busy on the bus.” She tucked them into her purse. “Here it comes. Stay close.”


“Wake up, honey. This is our stop.” The mother nudged her boy awake.
Thaddeus stumbled down the street, his post-nap haze lifting with each step. Businessmen marched down the sidewalk, briefcases swinging in unison. Car horns beeped. Messengers zigzagged through traffic with large canisters on their backs. Past restaurants and stores mother and son trod, tall office buildings blocking out the sun.
Their destination was a massive gray building, one full block in size, which he thought looked like Aunt Barbara’s wedding cake, each tier more ornate than the one below, with arches and columns and words he had never seen before.
“What is this place, Mother?”
“It’s the library.” She opened the doors to reveal crisscrossing marble staircases.
Little Thaddeus navigated the stairs, picking his legs up extra high so he didn’t fall. Mosaics of green-colored glass, gold leaf, and mother of pearl guided him toward the main room. His nostrils filled with the scent of paper and a hint of dust.
“What does that say?” He pointed to one of the many quotes lining the third floor’s outer hall.
“‘He that loveth a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, or an effectual comforter.’ It’s from Isaac Barrow. Follow me, sweetie.”
They entered a grand room capped with a gold-rimmed, blue–stained glass dome. The ornate ceiling sparkled when sunlight shone through. His mother bent down and whispered in his ear, “That is the world’s largest Tiffany dome. See those symbols at the top? Those are the signs of the zodiac. People born under the same sign usually have similar characteristics.”
Thaddeus didn’t know who this Tiffany was, but she sure made some beautiful art—all those pieces of glass put just so. He couldn’t take his eyes off of it and ended up walking right into his mother, jostling them both.
The woman perched behind the circulation desk peered down at him. “May I help you?”
He gulped, his eyes begging for his mother’s assistance.
“My son turned five last week. We would like to get him a library card.”
Thaddeus puffed out his chest. After all, he was old enough to be in a magnificent place such as that.
“Why certainly, ma’am.” The woman turned to Thaddeus. “Happy birthday, young man. Let’s get you started.”
He printed “Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV” in his best hand, careful to make each letter small enough to fit on the line provided, while still being legible, quite a feat for one so young.
The librarian returned and handed him his card. Thaddeus beamed. A glorious bibliophilic universe was at his disposal! Well, at least the children’s section.
“Reading time starts in ten minutes downstairs in Room B. Enjoy your great adventure, young man.”
On the way down, Maureen read him every quote adorning the walls, nuggets of wisdom passed down from great thinkers of every world region in praise of books and reading. Thaddeus didn’t understand it all, of course, but he could feel it was a sacred space, a special place where the tales of generations could be passed down to those who had the same card as he.
An elderly gentleman clad in a tweed jacket and corduroy pants waved them into Room B. Thaddeus took a spot in the front row among the other children while Maureen joined the other mothers near the back.
         “Greetings, young lad,” the man said. “I haven’t seen you here before.” They spoke the same language, yet he didn’t sound like anyone Thaddeus had ever heard.
        “I got my library card today. My birthday was last week.” The boy beamed.
“I see. You’ve just picked up your passport.”
“Library card,” Thaddeus corrected.
“Bring it here, son. Let me see.” The man examined the card carefully. “Ah, this is not merely a library card. With this, you can travel the jungles of Africa with Rudyard Kipling or traipse the moors with Emily Brontë.” He patted Thaddeus on the head and sent him back to his seat. “All right, children. Today we are going to read Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne, who happens to hail from my motherland of England.”
The man’s voice danced in Thaddeus’s ears. Beautifully rounded vowels waltzed alongside perfectly pronounced consonants, all joining together to tell the story of Christopher Robin’s sweet teddy bear.
Before catching the bus home, Thaddeus and Maureen Mumblegarden stopped in Marshall Field’s for a cup of hot cocoa and a cookie.
“Mother, look!” Thaddeus tugged at her coat. He picked up a Pooh bear from a display and hugged it tightly.
         He cuddled the bear throughout the entire ride home, careful not to drop his new friend on the dirty bus floor.


“Addie! You should have seen it! The dome! All the books! You’re never going to believe what we found at Marshall Field’s.” He shoved Winnie-the-Pooh toward his sister.
She pushed the plush toy out of her face. “Cute, Thaddeus.”
“I’m not Thaddeus,” he replied mimicking the storyteller’s accent as best as he could. “I’m Christopher Robin.”
“Yeah, that’s not too weird. Mom, what did you get me?” Addie smiled and batted her eyes.
“I’m sorry, Adelaide. I told you this was Thaddeus’s special day. We did the same thing when you turned five.”
“Like I remember.” She turned in a huff, stalked to her bedroom, and slammed the door.
“Mother,” said Thaddeus, still in a British accent. “Thank you for this most lovely day. I’m sure I shall remember it always.” He hugged her tightly, made Pooh Bear give her a kiss as well, and skipped to his room.

Copyright © 2014 by Karen Wojcik Berner

A Groovy Kind of Love is available for pre-order at Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Kobo. Release date: 1/12/15.

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Sense of Place in Fiction

Authenticity is an important part of fiction, believe it or not.

Think of some of the classics, like Jane Austen’s Meryton, Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford, or Louisa May Alcott’s Concord. Each location has its own story, and I was drawn to writing part of Naperville’s through the Bibliophiles series to chronicle this picturesque little city as I see it every day.

Surprisingly diverse in some neighborhoods on the North side and almost stuffed into its boundaries with a 144,000+ population, Naperville is an interesting blend of city and hometown, cosmopolitan and kitsch. Fantastic restaurants, a lively bar scene, and concerts in North Central College’s Wentz Hall feature alongside the annual Memorial Day parade, the Santa House where children wait to tell their dreams, and the largest statue of a founder (Joseph Naper) I have ever seen, smaller than the Lincoln Memorial, thank goodness, but much larger than Nathaniel Hawthorne’s in Salem, Massachusetts, or even Queen Victoria’s likeness on the Mall. Me thinks Naperville has a bit of a problem with perspective.

Like so many lovely places, Naperville resides squarely in a bubble, constantly placing on “Best Places to Live in the U.S.” lists for new families, retirees, probably even dogs. Residential incomes vary from upper middle class to very wealthy. The original small ranch homes of the 1970s suburban sprawl from Chicago are being knocked down to erect multi-million-dollar houses, making the ranch home sellers millionaires themselves. Nearly 98% of people 25 years or older have at least a high school diploma, the highest rate nationally, while more than 63% have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to USA Today. The school district, the reason my husband and I moved here, is nationally recognized and consistently ranks in the top of the country.

The DuPage River winds its way through the downtown area and following its path is the Riverwalk, 1.75 miles of brick paths, fountains, bridges, outdoor sculptures, a quarry turned pool, and celebratory memorials.

When we first moved here some eighteen years ago, there was a small, independent coffeehouse, Arbor Vitae, I believe the name was, that was right across the street from the Riverwalk. I stopped in a few times for lunch with my family or for a quick pick me up when the kids were younger. A funky place with colorful tables and a great vibe, it served hummus platters and tabbouleh before they became popular.

Those visits planted the seed of Ambrosia, the Pearson’s juice bar in my fictional Naperville.

What lurks behind the facade, under the bubble, are stories of everyday people mitigating their lives like everyone else, characters contributing to society’s fabric. That’s what interests me.

Thaddeus’s family, the Mumblegardens, moved to Naperville at the cusp of the 1980s, right as the population began to swell. The Pearsons (Spring’s parents) came soon after, fleeing San Francisco for more affordable real estate. The Mumblegardens represent the golf-playing, work at Bell Labs (now Lucent Technologies) backstory that so many people of my age come from here, while Spring’s parents are more of the outsiders doing their own thing, sometimes succeeding despite themselves as they struggle to run a business and still uphold their Hippie ideals.

Somehow, Spring and Thaddeus fall in love with the help of bibliophile Edwina Hipplewhite, moderator of the local classics book club that brings the two together.

Next Time:

Join me on Wednesday as we meet Thaddeus Mumblegarden IV, co-protagonist of A Groovy Kind of Love.