My parents were of the World War II generation. Dutiful to country, brimming with tales of gas rations, war brides, friends who didn’t survive, their stories filled our home.
With my maternal grandfather living with us, his accounts of joining in on the tail-end of the gold rush came spilling out. Although only a teenager at the time, he had traveled with his older brother across the country. A picture surfaced of them in an old car in St. Louis. Stories of Utah and California accompanied the cards and letters from his acquaintances far away from North Carolina.
At my paternal grandparents’ house, a gleaming staircase beckoned. At its zenith were the childhood rooms of my aunts and uncles, and the attic closet where my uncles’ military uniforms hung at attention, as if waiting to be called up for duty once again.
Adjacent to that, another rod held the ball gowns and bridesmaids dresses of my Aunt Millie. I would open the door hurriedly, seeing the rush of air bringing the clear plastic coverings to life as they swung in the sudden breeze, and imagine the dance between the soldiers and the ladies, the one I was certain I had interrupted.
Aunt Millie was a beautiful, petite, blonde whose pink perfumed room was a treasure trove. She gave me my first taste of champagne, a book on French style, and the soundtrack from The Sound of Music, her favorite movie. Pursued by a bevy of gentlemen, none ever made the final cut, though not for lack of proposals. There was something wild inside her, some spark of nature that needed the forest for nourishment, and she could sniff out ginseng and lady slippers while wearing a cashmere sweater and Pendleton wool slacks.
Going on walks with her whenever she came home was a treat, especially when the girls would follow her around the road to our great-grandparents’ vacant and abandoned house on the hill above us. Our male cousins would always invent a reason not to accompany us, but as soon as we rounded the bend in the road, they would run from the house, racing through the woods in a short cut to boost one another into the window and up the rickety stairs. (We didn’t discover this until years later.)
Armed with the wooden leg of our great-grandfather—and I wonder to this day why it wasn’t buried along with him—they would listen for the creaking of the door as it opened and then begin the haunting. I can still hear the thump of the leg as it came for us, and how we would sprint off the porch, certain we were about to be taken back into the grave with dear old great-grandpa.
Creepy old houses, ghost stories, romance, obligations, duties, adventure—that was how I grew up.
I was convinced I was supposed to be a writer and even wrote my first novel at age nine. But the eighties wasn’t about following passion, it was about seeking the best-paying jobs. My advisers said I should study business and just write as a hobby, so I did.
I filled my electives with creative writing and literature classes. One professor called me to her office after a reading. “You already have a style,” she said. “You should keep writing.” Thank you, Essie Hayes.
For some reason I decided it had to be a secret hobby and put my novels to bed in the upstairs cupboards once they were finished. Like mistreated children, locked in the closet, they waited for sunlight. It didn’t come for them until my son left for college. With my husband—now of thirty-one years—busy on his farm, I went on my own adventure.
Off to France and to The Essoyes School, where Janet Hulstrand’s encouragement and advice gave me the courage to start submitting my work. And then I read about a writer’s retreat The Wild Rose Press was hosting in Asheville, North Carolina and decided to join in. There I met not only other wonderful writers, but the owners, and my editor—Maggie Johnson.
My first novel, Acquisition, was released last November, and my second, The Haunting of William Gray, is scheduled for release this November.
If you like sassy, strong heroines; smart, savvy heroes; and a bit of adventure, you’ll enjoy my tales.