Here I am, your Friday girl, and in all honesty, after reading my fellow debs’ posts this week, I felt an acute case of stage fright, because, for one thing, aren’t they awesome? And for another thing, I couldn’t think of the inspiration for KILMOON.
So here’s a question, what do my first trip to Ireland and family trauma have in common? They both inspired my novel. In one helluva year, over a decade ago, the story found me. Here’s my inspiration stew:
1. A matchmaking festival in Ireland. There I was, Guiness’ing my way through Ireland, when I landed in Lisdoonvarna village, home of an annual matchmaking festival. I was immediately intrigued. Wouldn’t a chaotic and oversexed festival be a great backdrop for a story? By its very nature, a matchmaking festival is a happy affair, but I’m a fan of juxtapositions, not to mention fascinated by the dark impulses we harbor … soooo, I got to thinking about what could lurk beneath the happily-ever-after façade of a charismatic matchmaker.
2. A church named Kilmoon. In County Clare, where the winds gust off the Atlantic and drystone walls undulate over the hills, sits an early Christian ruin called Kilmoon Church. It resides in a field off a lane in the middle of nowhere. I fell in love with it. There’s something about old churches, the way they guard death within their walls. Kilmoon Church infiltrated my initial drafts, becoming her own character. I renamed her Our Lady of the Kilmoon, and she’s got a story of her own she could tell.
3. My dad’s death. My dad died of cancer around the time the initial ideas for my novel were percolating. His death had a direct impact on my first chapter. Every other scene might have changed, but the essence of my first scene remains the same, a scene of death and betrayal and heartbreak. (How’s that for a hook?) In truth, my dad was hard-to-know, and we weren’t particularly close. I now realize I was processing my dad’s death and my relationship with him. KILMOON is a mystery, but it’s also a family drama about the relationships between fathers and daughters. In particular, about Merrit Chase, who travels to Ireland to meet her biological father — a charismatic matchmaker — with no clue that events from his past are about to land her in a world of hurt.
4. My mom’s secret son. Another theme is secrets, and what family doesn’t have its share of secrets? Just a few months after my dad died, my mom revealed a secret that she’d been suppressing since before she’d met my dad. She’d given up a baby boy for adoption, and this choice had devastated her. She’d given up a part of herself, and because suppression works in funny ways, this impacted her ability to mother my sisters and I. A part of her had gone missing. In real life, my big brother is awesome, so it all ended well. But in my fictional world? Let’s just say that secrets and missing moms also factor into Merrit’s journey.
I set KILMOON aside so often that in the intervening years I managed to complete two novels and begin two others. I never 100% gave up on my first baby novel, however. Kilmoon, the church, wouldn’t let me. She kept whispering messages she wasn’t going to let me keep buried. And I’m so glad she did!
What about you, have you ever discovered a secret about a loved one that rocked your world? If you’re a writer, what themes from your life have found their way into your books? For readers, what book themes attract you?