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A “Real Life” Dark Fairytale: Writer Theresa Weir’s “The Orchard”

October 3, 2011

When most of us see brightly colored apples on the grocery shelves and at a farmer’s market stands, we think of this hallmark symbol of autumn, freshly baked pies, and picturesque orchards. But for Theresa Weir, she sees apples as a symbol of her long-ago dark days as a young bride on a dangerous apple orchard. Theresa’s story about her experience with one of America’s favorite fruits is the premise of her first memoir, The Orchard.

Theresa is a bestselling author of dozens of novels that have spanned the genres of suspense, mystery, thriller, romantic suspense, and paranormal. She takes her first nonfiction approach to writing with The Orchard, which tells the story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected. Rejected by her husband’s family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Theresa about The Orchard, as well as her approach to writing in general. The events in the memoir began in 1975. When asked why she waited quite some time before writing The Orchard, Theresa gave several reasons, including the desire to put enough time and space between the events in the book to her life today. However, she believes that she really needed time to grow and improve as a writer in order to tell this story.

Theresa compares The Orchard to a dark fairy tale in that it had all the elements of the classic stories – the magical land, the handsome price, the naïve bride, and the poison apple. Once she saw the story in that tone, Theresa said it was easier to determine the tone and write the memoir.

Without giving too much of the plot away, I will tell you The Orchard is certainly eye-opening when it comes to growing (and eating) fruit. And the biographic story of Theresa is one that I will never forget. Theresa admits that up until a few years ago, she could not bring herself to eat apples. And while farming has indeed changed since 1975 in that consumers are more aware of eating organically, she still feels there’s a long way to go in order for people to be truly educated about pesticides and orchard fruits.

“I hope people will come away [from The Orchard] with more of an awareness of pesticides and fruit,” Theresa said. “I wanted to write a personal story hoping that putting a face and name to the situation would have an impact on people.”

Since this was Theresa’s first non-fiction work after a series of fiction novels, I talked with her a bit about the differences in writing the two genres. She believes that fiction is easier for her to write. Mainly because with memoir writing, one has to determine which of the many events in one’s past can be written with actual plot points in mind. Theresa believes that with fiction, the writer can construct a plot in whatever way she determines. Yet with non-fiction, that is not always a luxury. Yet the plot needs to progress in order to create a page-turning experience for the reader.

While she believes it was harder to write non-fiction, Theresa is very aware that writing The Orchard helped tremendously in her fiction writing. “With first-person writing, I would write the scene as it happened, and then dig deeper into the situation and explore my emotions and the emotions of others,” Theresa said. “When I was writing fiction, I didn’t do that as much. So now I’ve learned more about exploring the emotion of characters through my own non-fiction.”

*****

If you are in Southern California and you would like to learn more about Theresa Weir and The Orchard, join her and Adventures by the Book for a special Julian Apple Orchard Adventure this Saturday, October 8 at Raven Hill Organic Apple Orchard in Julian, California.

The adventure begins with a scenic bus ride from San Diego to Julian during which time Theresa will discuss The Orchard. Upon arrival in Julian, participants will have the opportunity to tour organic Raven Hill Apple Orchard and hand-pick a bucket of Julian apples, and learn what Slow Food Urban San Diego and Raven Hill are doing to promote healthy farms. Tickets are still available for this amazing Julian Apple Orchard Adventure. You won’t want to miss it!

24 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2011 9:17 am

    Love this Leah! Readers will not be disappointed with The Orchard or with the event! My favorite book since The Help! Hope everyone will join us to meet this amazing author and to have a fun day in Julian picking apples!

    • October 4, 2011 9:44 pm

      Thanks, Susan, for the opportunity to find The Orchard. I know the event will be terrific.

  2. October 3, 2011 9:47 am

    Thanks Leah for a great peek into “The Orchard” and the reminder about the upcoming Julian day adventure!

    • October 4, 2011 9:44 pm

      You’re welcome, Kim. Thanks for reading. Are you going to Julian?

  3. October 3, 2011 10:08 am

    Thanks for this review, Leah. I just read a review in the paper this weekend (her orchard was in my neck of the woods) and am glad to see a second thumbs up. Of course, I dearly love apples and would hate to have that passion smashed to smithereens if I read the book.

    • October 4, 2011 9:45 pm

      It’s really her experience with this particular apple orchard. I think even Theresa would agree that there have been major improvements with organic apple farming too. Let me know if you read the book.

  4. October 3, 2011 12:19 pm

    Wow, you made a book I wouldn’t normally consider sound so interesting. Now I’ve gotta know more! Good job, Leah.

    • October 4, 2011 9:45 pm

      Thanks, Cynthia. It’s a fascinating read! I hope you enjoy it too.

  5. October 3, 2011 2:07 pm

    Leah, thanks so much for the lovely post! This orchard day is going to be so nice. Looking forward to meeting everybody! It’s a book that’s extremely hard to describe, and I agree with Cynthia. You made it sound super interesting. 🙂

    • October 4, 2011 9:46 pm

      Thanks, Theresa. It was a pleasure speaking with you and reading your book. Looking forward to meeting you too.

  6. October 3, 2011 4:06 pm

    I don’t think I would have picked up the book without such a passionate review, which I love reading especially if it’s been written by a fellow writer. I wondered at first if the book was like Winterson’s ‘Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, but it isn’t at all like that story. What I enjoyed here (aside from the review) our Theresa’s comparison of writing fiction vs. non fiction. I’ve observed we writers settle into our camps of style and are not always willing to venture outside of our comfort zones for fear of… failure? I don’t know why, but it was comforting and reassuring to hear about the process from another writer. Thanks, Leah and Theresa, for sharing.

    • October 4, 2011 9:47 pm

      You’re welcome. And thanks for reading. I agree with you and really enjoyed talking with Theresa about her writing and the differences between fiction and non-fiction. As a writer, I learned so much just from listening to her describe what she learned.

  7. October 3, 2011 6:27 pm

    Thanks for the review.. can’t wait to read the book!

    • October 4, 2011 9:47 pm

      Thanks, Shary. You won’t be disappointed.

  8. October 3, 2011 7:21 pm

    Wow. This memoir sounds fabulous, Leah. Thank you so much for sharing. I can totally see how writing the memoir helped Theresa with the emotional aspects of her fiction. I’ve always been concerned about eating apples, and now I’m afraid to read the book for fear I may never eat another! But I do want to read this story, and am heading to goodreads to put it on my list.

    • October 4, 2011 9:48 pm

      Don’t let the fear deter you from the book, really! It’s her own experience with her family’s orchard. It’s not an attack on all apples. I’m glad you’ve added it to your wish list. And yes, I loved hearing about how she wrote fiction and non-fiction. It was fascinating.

  9. October 3, 2011 9:17 pm

    Wow – what a great review…I’m intrigued! *sigh* I remember Julian, CA. How did they do with the fires several years ago? I never heard…

    • October 4, 2011 9:49 pm

      Thanks, Ann. Luckily Julian fared okay in the fires. There was actually another one there this past weekend. But I think it’s pretty much contained.

  10. October 4, 2011 7:01 am

    Thanks Leah, this is a great and very thorough review. I will make sure to read this book, but i am afraid now… Apples are one of my favorite fruits!

    • October 4, 2011 9:50 pm

      Don’t be afraid, Ariana! Really. Apples are still great. She’s just writing from her memories and experience on her orchard.

  11. October 4, 2011 2:12 pm

    I just love when I see book reviews — they’re so important! Great review, and that’s really cool that you got to talk with the author. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • October 4, 2011 9:50 pm

      Thanks! I loved talking to her and learning so much from another writer. And I really believe in printed books and reading, so I always try to help fellow writers who publish books. I hope I can be so lucky one day.

  12. October 5, 2011 4:03 am

    Wow, this looks so interesting Leah! I really appreciated the interview and background to the book, it truly makes a difference. Great post!

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