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 The Keeping, on the other hand, came from an article I read about the Vermont eugenics project, a terrible time in Vermont history of which I knew nothing. It hit home even more when I learned that people I knew had grown up denying who they really were in order to avoid persecution and possible separation from their families because of their heritage.

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.