When I’m out and about talking about books, people always ask me where the story came from, how much is true, where did the idea begin?
It’s different with every book – that’s what keeps the process fascinating, I think. A book is a little like a pregnancy. You never know how the genetics will mix. No matter how many babies you have, each one is a unique individual with unique DNA.
Wildwood Creek has the DNA of folk legend, historical fact, and wild flight of fancy – how’s that for a combination? The idea for a part-contemporary-part-historical story began spinning itself in my head after ghost towns rose from local lakes during a summer drought. Aside from that, there was a chance encounter with a fascinating roadside monument. I’d tell you about the monument, but… well… that would spoil the story. Suffice to say that it commemorates a sad and much-debated chapter of Civil War history in Texas. Many people outside Texas aren’t even aware that the state was part of the Confederacy, or that the issue was hotly debated among Texans as the conflict heated up to the east.
I have always been a lover of history, and having grown up in the era of sweeping western movies, I’m especially fond of the history of the American frontier. I’m a sucker for roadside monuments, Small-town museums, the foundations of old homesteads, historical markers, and old graveyards. Standing over the time-worn headstones of child graves — sometimes several in the same family — I’ve often felt the connection to the human side of the past, to the mothers of those children, whose grief at times must have been overwhelming. It’s impossible not to wonder, from the safer vantage point of a modern life, if I could have endured what those pioneer women endured? If I were in the shoes of my ancestors, would I have the metal to survive?
That sense of wondering is part of Wildwood Creek. A 150 year old mystery lies hidden beneath Moses Lake in the story. Though the locals have long shared tall tales and legends of Wildwood, a town in which the citizenry suddenly vanished near the beginning of the war, no one knows what really happened. But as modern-day girl, Allie Kirkland, accepts a position among the cast of a docudrama film reenacting the last days of Wildwood, a summer drought (yes, like the one we had as I was writing the book) is closing in and the secrets of Wildwood are about to rise to the surface.
After the idea comes the research, of course…
The research for Wildwood Creek was both fascinating and challenging. Because there is an ongoing modern story interlaced with an ongoing historical story, both contemporary and historical research were required. Putting the novel together necessitated everything from learning about how frontier reenactment docudramas — like the PBS Frontier House series — might be filmed and staffed, to learning what the actual frontier life of the young Irish schoolteacher, Bonnie Rose, might have been like during the Civil War era in Texas. A fair bit of study on available means of transportation, clothing, cooking methods, and Texas politics of the time period was also necessary. I’m not complaining, mind you. I found more fascinating facts about skirmishes, Civil War espionage, riverboats, Irish immigrants, and general frontier life than I could possibly use. So often while I was writing of Allie’s life on the reenactment set, or Bonnie’s life in the town of Wildwood, I lost myself in their lives. The best stories are the ones that completely transport you to another place, another time, another life.
My favorite stories are the ones that completely transport me. And speaking of total transportation…
Because the book is set on a lake, I was forced to take my lawn chair and my inner tube and suffer through numerous days of sitting by the water, watching flocks of egrets fly over and letting the wind blow through my hair. It was tough duty, but I am hopelessly devoted to my art and willing to endure whatever it takes to get the setting, and the culture surrounding it, exactly right. It’s a lot to ask of a writer, but I’ll put in my time, no matter how long I have to listen to the waves gently lapping at the shore and watch happy families coming and going from the picnic grounds. Did I mention that I’m hopelessly devoted to my art?
Thanks, Kate for inviting me to visit your little cyber spot today, and thank you, readers for stopping by. May many more stories bring us together in the future!
About Lisa Wingate
Lisa Wingate is a journalist, inspirational speaker, reviewer for the New York Journal of Books, and the author of over twenty novels. Her novels combine elements of history, romance, mystery, and women’s fiction with nuggets of Southern culture, from the sublime to the humorous. She is a seven-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol award nominee, a Christy Award nominee, an Oklahoma Book Award finalist, a Christianity Today Book Award nominee, an Inspy Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. Her works have been selected for Booklist’s Top Ten List in 2012 and in 2013. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others, as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Visit Lisa at her website: www.LisaWingate.com
My website: www.Lisawingate.com
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