Authors

What would YOU like to read?

541842344As you know, my latest novel, ALOHA SPIRIT, is finished and being queried to agents. Time to begin researching novel #6! For both UNDER THE ALMOND TREES and ALOHA SPIRIT, I used women in my family as inspiration. There are several other interesting stories in my family tree, and I want to see which one interests readers the most. Indicate your preference in the comments below. Add a comment if you wish!

  1. Emily Miree was born at Fort Snelling, Minnesota in 1836. Her mother was the sister of James Lockwood, the first governor of Wisconsin. Her stepfather, James Churchman, was a circuit attorney in Illinois, and Emily’s mother traveled with him. They went to California in 1851. Emily was living with the James Lockwood family in 1850. Why didn’t she go west with her mother? James Churchman was a prominent attorney and knew Abraham Lincoln. He went to Valparaiso, Chile, as Lincoln’s ambassador in 1861, taking Samantha with him. Emily had married in 1858. Her husband sold water to the gold miners. They had five children in four different mining towns. Life must have been difficult for Emily–Indian troubles at the fort, stepfather issues as he took her mother traveling, and living hard in mining camps with a young family.
  2. Emeline Beach was the daughter of Moses Yale Beach, an inventor and publisher of the New York Sun, which at that time was a pioneer penny newspaper. Her mother was Nancy Day, sister of Benjamin Day, the founder of the New York Sun. Benjamin was the family member who sold the family’s heirloom Brewster chest, handed down from William Brewster of the Mayflower. Emeline was a lifelong friend of Mark Twain and might have married him, but her father made it clear he did not want a ‘Western rough-neck’ for a son-in-law.  She married the great painter, Abbot Thayer, and lived in an art colony where Mark Twain spent his summers for years. I would love to research these artistic people more deeply and write a story about Emeline and Mark Twain.
  3. Margaret Cusack was 16 in 1888 when she came to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, from Ireland. Her large family was strongly tied to the MacMillan family, with many marriages and census information showing members of both families sharing living quarters. After the Gold Rush, the timber industry in Northern California created a new rush. Scottish and Irish immigrants poured into the state from Canada, including the MacMillan and Cusack families. Margaret married Michael MacMillan in Scotia, California and they had nine children. For this story I would explore the complex family dynamics of a large multi-generational family making its way in a new state and a new industry.

So what do you think, readers? Emily, Emeline, or Margaret? Who intrigues you the most?

About Writing

Inspired by Family

IMG_0551Throughout my life, I have listened avidly to stories of my family. It was no different when I married my husband and heard stories of his family. I turned my own stories into a novel, UNDER THE ALMOND TREES and I’m currently working on ALOHA SPIRIT a story of my husband’s grandmother. The picture at left is his grandmother, mother, and aunts in Honolulu just before World War II. When writing these stories, I can’t be completely accurate since I don’t know all the details of the person’s life. It can’t be a biography. Dialogue has to be invented, as well as what I call the filling in between known events. For this reason, I’ve stopped saying these novels are about my family and begun saying they are inspired by family.

Family stories may be the inspiration, but they cannot carry a novel on their own. Even so, the first source of deeper information is the family. I took the older members of my family aside and urged them to tell me the details–where they went to school, what their mother made for dinner, which was their favorite relative, and who fought with who. My sons were working on a genealogy merit badge in Boy Scouts when they interviewed their great-grandfather. He was born in Honolulu in 1918 and was a civilian ship fitter at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed in 1941. His first-person view of the event was incredible, but his personal reactions were priceless. He told how he wanted to hide during the attack, but his boss made him go out with a crew to remove scaffolding from a ship. He hid behind turrets on the ship as the Japanese planes flew over. I wish I’d had my novelist’s eye that day and asked him about how he got to work, how long a day he worked, what he’d had for breakfast, and what the family said when he got home. Those are the details that make a novel.

Grandpa’s experience is a tiny part of my novel ALOHA SPIRIT. I had to research a lot about territorial Hawaii–the years between the fall of the monarchy and statehood. I didn’t care so much about the politics of the sugar plantation owners. I wanted to know about daily life. When did they get televisions, cars, radios? When were the hotels built on Waikiki? I read historical fiction set in Hawaii to get a feel for the era, and nonfiction for accuracy. There are many details I couldn’t find or that I had to change to fit my story. I can do that, since it’s a novel and not a biography.

The hardest part is showing the finished work to living members of the family. I think they understand that I intend it to be a tribute to our ancestors, but I’m sure they have a different view of the characters and events than I do. When I exaggerate a negative trait, I’m trying for greater conflict to improve the novel’s pacing, not to ruin a person’s reputation. So when you read my novels, keep in mind that they are novels. A lot of it is made up! Enjoy them as fiction. If you absolutely must know if something really happened, send me an email. My hope is that readers will be as inspired by the characters in my novels as I was by the women who inspired them.

Authors

Author-go-Round: Me!

 

Ellen001IMG_0447Welcome to the third week of AUTHOR-GO-ROUND! This week it’s my turn.

My grandmother’s grandmother, Ellen VanValkenburgh, fascinated me from a young age. She left a tremendous legacy of strength for the women of my family, and she inspired my novel, Under the Almond Trees. On the left is a photograph taken sometime around the turn of the last century. I’m on the right, 100 years later, wearing the same brooch. Ellen died before my father was born, but here is how I imagine an interview with her might go.

Linda Ulleseit (me): Thank you for speaking with me, Grandma Van.

Ellen VanValkenburgh: What would you like to talk about today?

Me: I’ve always admired the story of you running your husband’s paper mill after he passed away. Was that hard emotionally? I mean was he the love of your life?

Ellen: (laughing) Such a modern idea! In my day we didn’t moon over our men. I did what I had to do to feed my family. I had two daughters then, you know, and a son on the way.

Me: Henry VanValkenburgh was your second marriage, though.

Ellen: That’s true. He was the father of my children, but Jacob… Jacob was my heart.

Me: The love of your life.

Ellen:If you insist. But we only had a short time together.

Me: Yes, true. Can we talk about your time in Santa Cruz? Did running the paper mill make you want to be in politics?

Ellen: Oh, I never wanted to be in politics, but when I tangled with the city over business matters it seemed foolish that women had no part in making decisions about how their city was run. Women couldn’t vote then, you know.

Me: Oh, I know. You fought hard for women to vote. I’m very proud of you for that. You even met Susan B. Anthony, is that right?

Ellen: (nodding) What an earnest face and genial smile she had!. Susan came to Santa Cruz at the request of her brother Elihu, a prominent man in Santa Cruz.

Me: And she inspired you to sue the county?

Ellen: Among others. But yes, I did sue in 1862. The law, after all, said a person born in these United States was a citizen and eligible to vote. Disappointing to learn that the law applied to Negroes but not women.

Me: But you persevered.

Ellen: Didn’t succeed until 1920. I was old by then.

Me: What a tremendous legacy to leave your children, though. What an inspiring life you’ve led.

Ellen: Well, I didn’t intend to be either a legacy or inspiring. I only wanted some say in how my city, and country, was run.

Me: Still, your niece by marriage and your granddaughter hold you in high esteem. As do I.UAT front

Ellen: That’s nice. Neither Nina or Eva were trying to be inspirational either. They just decided what they wanted and stuck to their guns until they got it.

Me: That’s admirable.

Ellen: Well, all right. I guess that’s so. (smiling) Share my story then with whomever you will. I hope they enjoy reading it.

Me: Thank you, Grandma Van. I’m sure they will.

Under the Almond Trees is available on Amazon here.

Also please visit these awesome AUTHOR-GO-ROUND authors:

Tracy Lawson www.tracylawsonbooks.com

Nina Day Gerard, www.ninadaygerard.com

Miracle Austin, www.miracleaustin.com

Connie Peck, conniepeck.wordpress.com

 

 

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Edible Bookshelf Reviews Under the Almond Trees

Click on edible bookshelfover to DelSheree Gladden’s blog for a page of easy links to my newest book, Under the Almond Trees. She also has a blurb to entice you to read. Go on, you know you want to.