NEW CANAAN — When Executive Director Janet Lindstrom announced her retirement from the New Canaan Historical Society last October after 34 years, the organization was left with a large hole to fill.

After many months of interviewing candidates, Lindstrom’s successor was named in March.

Nancy Geary, a former novelist, courtroom lawyer and veteran of the not-for-profit world, took over the helm at the beginning of April and will begin, with the Board of Trustees and the President, to set goals for her tenure.

Q: How did you come to New Canaan?

A: I live in South Salem, in Westchester. I am very familiar with New Canaan because my son went to New Canaan Country School for nine years. So a lot of my friends and a lot of my involvement with organizations came out of here.

Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in New York City and went to college in Rhode Island, went to law school in Massachusetts. I was working in Boston through about 1997, then I left to write and moved down to the Cape. In 2001 I moved to Westchester really never having been to Westchester before.

I knew I wanted to move closer to New York City, and at that time I had a small child and dogs and I wanted country. So I ended up there. At the time I was writing and my literary agent lives in New Canaan on the Stamford line. He had grown up here, he had gone to school here, and he said, ‘You need to look at Country School for your son.’ And that’s how I ended up originally connected to this town.

Q: What prompted the change from a career in law to writing novels?

A: There were a couple of things. The first thing was that I had always loved to write. I started to take some classes, but being a trial lawyer things were very unpredictable. So I would enroll in a class and the night would come and I couldn’t go. Then my father passed away, very young and very suddenly. So I was talking to my husband about this idea of the perfect moment, or waiting for retirement, to write may not come.

So we sort of looked at our finances and decided I’ll see what I can do in two years. If I couldn’t write and sell a book in two years, I was going to go back to being a lawyer.

And I did. I was really lucky that I got an agent and that it sold. I still hope to write more books.

Q: What kind of novels did you write?

A: The first three were considered suspense, which was not really a label I loved. But because somebody died and it was a mystery, that’s what they called them. And then the fourth one, “Being Mrs. Alcott,” is considered women’s fiction. They all kind of came out of where I was at the time. “Being Mrs. Alcott” was written at a time that my son was becoming a person. He wasn’t just a baby, he was three. I would wake up in the night thinking to myself, like, ‘What happens if I actually don’t like the person he becomes?’ How do you control that aspect of being a parent? So the book came out of that.

It’s about an older woman looking back on her children and her life and wondering, ‘Who are these people that I’ve raised?’

Anyway, I now think my son is the best thing in the world, so it all worked out.

Q: You then transferred into volunteerism. What kind of organizations were you working for?

A: I was on the board of Horizons, which is a student enrichment program that started at New Canaan Country School and now is on a lot of different campuses. I did publicity for them, I co-chaired one of their big galas. I had it from an organizational perspective and I had it from a PR perspective and I was on the finance committee. I did that for about six years.

I was also very, very involved in the vestry, and then as a warden, at St. Francis Episcopal Church in North Stamford. As warden you kind of do everything. I was on virtually every committee. You’re one of the two lay people sort of overseeing the operation of the church. So the only aspect you’re not involved in is the liturgy.

Q: How did the opportunity at the Historical Society then come into view?

A: Since my volunteer work I had very much wanted to get into a not-for-profit structure. And a friend of mine who’s on the board here, who I worked with on the board at Horizons, knew me and knew that that was an interest of mine. She called me up and said, ‘Would you be interested in applying?’ And I said, ‘Look, I have some of these skills.’ I certainly can read a balance sheet. I can market, I can do that stuff. But I don’t have a museum background.

I had a number of interviews with different people on the board, and also Janet Lindstrom, and they picked me. I was completely thrilled.

Part of what I see my transition being is meeting with people in town and figuring out how we can serve the community. The materials here - I knew they were extensive, I knew they had a big range — but you go downstairs and look through stuff, they are just amazing collections.

So that has a huge appeal to me. It’s complicated because Janet’s been here for such a long time, she’s lived in the community, she’s built this place. She knows so much, so hers are huge shoes for me to try and fill, that I certainly won’t fill anytime soon. But I also think I can bring certain things to the table. I’m hoping that through a lot of outreach I can understand really what would be a good role for this organization as it goes forward.

Q: Are there certain priorities you’ve set for yourself?

A: I’m sure there will be. Those are things that I’m going to work on in conjunction with the board and certainly with the president. Right now my immediate goal is just to understand the operations and to really reach out to people that I know that have been involved here. I really want to understand the role of the society in town and to try to open that up. But long term, yes, I think there’s going to be a strategic plan and some priorities set, but I won’t make those myself, that will be a group process.

justin.papp@scni.com; @justinjpapp1