TRAVERSE CITY — Cynthia Ellingsen fell in love with the area long before she came to northern Michigan to attend Interlochen Arts Academy.
The Battle Creek native spends part of every summer at her grandparents’ cabin in Interlochen, where she likes to canoe, hike and take day trips to places like the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes and the National Cherry Festival.
So when Ellingsen wanted to write a second book of contemporary women’s fiction, she knew just how to start.
“I composed the rough draft of the novel by the fire at Bud’s Coffee Shop in Interlochen and set the opening chapter in Traverse City,” said Ellingsen, 36, who now lives in Lexington, Ky.
The book, “Marriage Matters” (Penguin Berkley, $16) is set for release on Tuesday. Its trade description calls it a novel of “first loves, second chances and unexpected twists,” in which three generations of brides-to-be discover that “love is always better as a family affair.”
Interlochen gave Ellingsen her writing start. While attending the Academy as a theater major in 1995, the then-high school senior took a writing class from instructor Michael Delp, a Michigan poet, essayist and author.
“I’d always secretly wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t brave enough,” said Ellingsen. “On the day of graduation, he said, ‘You should have been a writer.’ That meant so much to me.”
After a stint at DePaul University in Chicago, where she again studied theater, Ellingsen set out for Los Angeles and an acting career. Instead, she found herself writing a screenplay, drawing on her theater and writing classes to help create characters and dialogue.
“I found myself kind of sitting in my room, writing, because that’s always what I’d secretly wanted to do,” she said. “My roommate said, ‘I have an idea for a screenplay. Do you want to write it?’” She said the pair’s collaboration, and another screenplay, both are “in development.”