Finding Inspiration

Where does the inspiration for a novel come from?

For me, at least, the inspiration is just that–only an inspiration, not the story itself. I rarely know in advance how a story will end, although I may have an inkling.

The inspiration for Lonely Souls was a near-accident that my husband and I experienced while traveling on the Ohio Turnpike. I was driving and he was asleep in the front passenger seat. When we crested a hill, I saw a pair of huge truck tires traveling down the highway at high speed ahead of me. They had broken from the axle of an eighteen-wheeler I had passed at the top of the hill.

Unlike Shelby in Lonely Souls, I managed to navigate around them safely after they crossed the median, hit a truck in the opposite lane, and ricocheted back toward our car. One passed in front of us and one passed behind. It was only after both were out of sight that I pulled over to the side of the road and began to shake uncontrollably. Meanwhile, my husband continued to sleep.

I could not get that experience out of my mind. The “what-if” possibilities kept nagging at me. What if my husband had died in that accident and I had survived? What would my frame of mind have been? How would I have gone on?

The inspiration for Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground, on the other hand, was a tragic story I had heard from my husband. A young man had caused an accident while driving drunk that severely injured a respected older man in the same town. Eventually, the older man was not able to stand the pain of his injuries and took his own life. The young man, devastated by what had happened, went to the same spot where the older man had committed suicide and did so as well.

That story made me think about the terrible waste on both sides that had occurred as the result of a single bad decision to drive under the influence of alcohol. And I couldn’t help but wonder how the families of the two men, known to each other as fellow townspeople, would relate to each other after losing both men in such a tragic manner.

I never know where my stories will come from. I only know that when they come, the pleasure of fleshing them out is one of my greatest joys!

Where is Chatham, Vermont?

My stories take place in a fictional tri-town area located in central Vermont, within an hour of Montpelier, the state capital.

Chatham, Wild River, and Wingate share a regional high school, a small cottage hospital, and, among them, all the necessities of rural life including a feed store, local diner, general store, and late-night watering hole.

I decided to create my own towns primarily to protect my characters from speculation about who they might “really” be if the stories were set in actual Vermont towns of relatively small size. Still, their attributes remain true to a variety of small Vermont towns.

Vermont is a unique place–one of beauty but also isolation. Vermonters tend to mind their own business and leave their neighbors alone. Still, they know everybody in town, and it can be hard to keep things private.