Some have asked how important setting is to my books. Well, only as important as the characters, the dialogue or maybe the HEA. It’s just a small consideration ranking up there slightly behind my ability to put my backside in a chair and start typing.
For twenty-five years, consumed with the needs of a husband and five children, putting that backside in the chair was well-nigh impossible! I ran myself down to a (gasp) size eight working full time, caring for said husband and kids, my parents, his mother and two horses as well as other assorted pets. And if you knew me you’d know that ever wearing a size eight was nothing short of a miracle. If I got to pen four lines of a sonnet in the middle of the night while waiting for barfing kid number two to exit the bathroom in time for child number three to hurl, I considered myself blessed. They only got sick in tandem, only got well in time for the next round to start, and when they were all healthy at one time (oh, thank you, God!) I was in the car. We had vacations in Cape May and on the Chesapeake Bay; for some reason, the entire family was drawn to water. But I was too busy brushing sand out of pants, including my own, to pay a lot of attention to scenery. When I finally got home, ready to kiss the ground because it didn’t move, I had a vague memory of views I had enjoyed at the time. But memory sped away like something seen from a train window, disappearing into the onrush of daily life.
Then—so suddenly, it seemed—everything changed. The nest began to empty. My parents and mother-in-law were gone. And then—also so swiftly yet with such agonizing slowness—my husband was gone, too, taken well before his time by leukemia.
There was only one thing to do. As soon as the dust had settled, I left for Ireland. A portion of my genes come from the Emerald Isle and for some reason I was convinced I would find peace there.
At first glimpse from the plane window, the famed Emerald Isle was brown. Murky brown, visible through streamers of cloud and mist. I could see the fabled stone walls, the little patchwork of fields and occasional farmhouses, the winding silver of waters. But where was the green? The plane descended, the fog cleared, the sun came out. BAM!!! There it was. An eyeball-hurting color unlike anything seen anywhere else. The green, green grass of home. My Scottish-by-descent grandmother’s family had been relocated, wending their way through both halves of Ireland and intermarrying with natives along the way. I had been close to Nana and there was no doubt in my mind, heart or soul– I had come back to the place of my beginning.
I spent the next three years where I knew I needed to be, punctuated by trips back to the States to attend to business and renew my tourist status. I didn’t work while I was in Ireland; I wrote. In hotel rooms and B&B’s, sheep pastures, Norman watch towers, on the shores of the Lakes of Killarney and amid the ruins of the Rock of Cashel, I wrote all those words I never had time to write. They poured out of me like never-ending streams of water running straight down the wild hills of Connemara. I wrote of the Burren, where slag heaps of rock lay piled like playthings of the gods. And the Dingle Peninsula, where painter’s light could make a fortune for the people if only they knew it. But they are happy with their life where everything is rock and sky and white sand beaches stretching away like fingers pointing to America where so many went because they have nothing in Dingle but fish. Hard to feed a family that way.
Eventually I came back to my family, of course, not healed but at least more whole. And the wonders of the books that Ireland wrenched out of me never cease to amaze me. I know with sure and certain instinct that they are the best I will ever write. Not the most technically perfect, perhaps. My craft will improve. But my soul is in those books and in the land where clouds follow you, scudding so low that you move in their shadow on sunny days, like a soft hand holding your heart.
For more insights on places that inspire authors, join our affilitate blog, Classic Romance Revival, during their Blog Carnival. This runs until June 13.
For full details and a list of prizes and the contest rules, visit: