And I am all atwitter! It’s a thrill to see a book with your own name on it. And the thrill doesn’t diminish I find, the second time you bring out a novel. I understand the process a little more, but not so much that it’s old hat. Not by any means! The learning curve remains steep!
The thrill with Home Place has a particular sweetness to the thrill because it is set in MY Home Place. Yup. That’s the house I grew up in, where I spent my first fourteen years with my three older sibs and parents in our half of the house and my grandma on her half. So I’ve spent a lot of the last three years conjuring up those once familiar rooms and feeling the old place wrapping its arms about me.
BUT this story is NOT about me! My protagonist Kat Patterson and I share some ancestors and their attempts to keep the place in the family. But Kat might manage to save her family farm from becoming a golf course when my own family could not. All through writing Kat’s story, I hoped she’d succeed. But I didn’t count on it.
You see, Kat’s got some big challenges. Her brother Paul is one. While she wants her home to stay the same, he sees dollar signs wherever he looks. His plan? Hire Whip Tyler to devise a plan to wring as much money from the land as possible – and just as fast. Yes, he’d be perfectly happy with a golf course circled with pricy luxury houses. Or any other quick money idea.
Whip is yet another challenge for Kat. Twenty years have gone by, but she still blames Whip for the loss that ripped her family apart. Ah, but then Whip blames himself. And he hopes that accepting Paul’s job offer might help atone for that night so long ago. Whip’s got more than enough reason not to trust Paul, but maybe if he’s on the scene, he can look out for Kat’s interests. Because there’s something about Kat that reminds him of a long-ago promise. And something else that plucks on his heartstrings.
Meanwhile, Kat has to face other obstacles. Like how practical is it for her to live in a sixteen-room (Yes! Sixteen!) house built in the mid-1800s? A house that has two kitchens, two dining rooms, two of everything (including closets.) She wants to bring it all back to its former glory, but how much money will that take? How much time? Is it worth it when she and Paul are the only family left – and Paul wants no part of her plans? And how will she pay taxes on the land? It’s not like you can plant crops on hills and timberland.
These are just some of the questions I’ve wrestled with on Kat and Whip’s behalf over the last three years – questions that arise from the impracticality of that house I grew up in and the potentials of Kat and Whip’s oil-and-water relationship.
It was – and still is – a big house, always meant for multiple generations, I believe. And it is old – with every issue known to old houses. Drafts, high heating bills, a vast roof, mice in the walls every fall, well-worn in every way.
But I reiterate, especially for my childhood friends who might remember or even see the house as it is today, the house and my memories of it might be based on fact, but Kat and Whip’s story is all fiction. Made up. Completely made up.
The house, though is entirely real and has been for roughly a hundred-fifty years. It was built by my great-grandparents Amasa Owen and Lovina Brown Crosiar who had eleven children who lived past infancy. There were probably also hired men and frequent visits from Lovina’s many nieces and nephews. After Amasa’s death, Lovina and her daughters Annie and Mattie lived on the south side of the house while my grandparents occupied the north side. And then after my grandfather died in 1943, my parents and sisters moved into the south side.
In the novel, Kat grew up as I did on the south side, but spent most of her time in her Gran’s rooms to the north. And it’s those rooms she’s begun to rehab at the start of the story. As a small child, I required an invitation – my mother’s rule – to visit Grandma’s side, but once there I often was able to wrangle a further invitation to lunch or a game of Authors (because my Baptist grandma had no truck with real playing cards.)
I always felt the house had stories to tell, but I suppose I also felt I had lots of time to hear them. That time ran out with my Grandma’s death and the sale of our Home Place. So I’ve been left to invent my own stories – or more precisely, Kat’s and Whip’s stories. It’s my pleasure to share their stories – and my Home Place – with you.