Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Going Right to the Source[s]

When I decided to take Cheryl Dickow, the president of Bezalel Books, up on her incredible offer to write a second young adult novel for her Catholic publishing company, I knew almost right away that I wanted to write a book with an historical component in it.  (In fact, before I decided to write Finding Grace back in 2007, I was thinking of writing a story something like this second novel, Erin's Ring, but I didn't feel ready to tackle it yet.)  The New England town where my husband and I live--where we moved in late 1989, and where we raised our five sons--has such a rich history, I believed that I could mine it and come up with a compelling tale.  And I hope I did.

Erin's Ring goes back and forth between the 1800's and the 1990's.  It interweaves the lives of some fictional young Irish immigrants who moved to Dover to escape poverty and famine in their homeland (and found employment in the non-fictional Cocheco textile mill, which was formerly known as the Dover Manufacturing Company) with those of two contemporary junior high classmates named Molly and Theresa, who bond over their trips to the public library's "Historical Room."  The girls begin researching the history of the intrepid 19th-century Irish immigrants of Dover, in the hopes of uncovering the owner of an old Claddagh ring that Molly found in the garden near her parish church; but they end up learning so much more than they ever dreamed possible. 

Anyway, I had half the story written in my head before I even sat down at my laptop keyboard; but first, I had to do a bit of research to get some of the facts straight about some important true events that were going to provide a backdrop for my story.  Furthermore, I wanted to be able to make my descriptions of 19th-century life in this town credible.

These days, you can find almost any information you're looking for on the World Wide Web, but I didn't want to have all of my sources come from the Internet.  I wanted to hold some actual books and papers in my hands.  I wanted to see these time-yellowed documents up close, with my own eyes, and to smell the mustiness that proved their age.  So I went down to our local public library, where I was told about a locked room upstairs, for which a special skeleton key was given out upon request, that housed all the precious old research materials I was looking for.  I went up there and immersed myself in Dover history for hours, taking pictures of the pages which contained snippets of info that I thought I might want to use (as this seemed a lot less painful than carrying them downstairs to copy them on a printer, locking and unlocking the old oak door for every trip there and back).

I was so enthralled with this information-packed room!  Is it any wonder, then, that I wrote it into the book?  Is it any wonder that although none of the characters were inspired by people I know in real life, I decided that Molly would have the same love of all things old and antique that I do?  The same love of history, and the same love of books?  They say you should write about what you know; and I know about loving to handle old things--wondering who has held them before me and what those lives lived before my time were like.

Here are some of the pictures I took back in early June during my foray into the archives of the Historical Room, when Erin's Ring was still but a twinkle in my eye (or my brain, or whatever).

Okay, then, fellow fiction and/or history buffs...does this get you all excited to read Erin's Ring?  (If so, mission accomplished!)


  1. VERY cool.....yes it does get me excited to read Erin's Ring!! Can't wait!

  2. Ahhhhh, I can just smell it now... You're making me miss archival work so much! And of course we're eagerly anticipating this novel!