A Family History Discussion

Last week a reader asked me a question on Facebook. She asked: “What discoveries in your own family history influenced or inspired the novel?”

I was happy to get her question, and happy to answer it here on the blog. Family history is a central theme of The House at Rose Creek. And indeed, discoveries in my own family history played a large part in inspiring the story of Ian Wylie, Kate’s ancestor and the writer of the journal that Kate reads throughout the novel.

For those that haven’t read the book (yet), a brief summary: Ian Wylie is the great grandfather four times over of the novel’s main character, Kate Sinclair. Generations before Kate was even born, Ian wrote a journal of his experiences that Kate later finds in the attic of the family’s old farmhouse. In the journal, Ian writes of journeying to America, from Scotland, in hopes of meeting his father. Unfortunately when he arrives, all is not as he expected. (Telling you more would ruin the story so, you know, perhaps you could buy a copy to see what happens next. Ahem. Yes. Yes that was a shameless plug.)

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This is James Armstrong Kinmont Wylie, my great, great, great grandfather.

Wylie is actually a family name in my own ancestry, on my mother’s side. In the mid 1800’s, James Armstrong Kinmont Wylie traveled to the United States from Scotland. Six years later, he booked passage for his wife Agnes, and their children. My great, great grandfather, Charles George Washington Walls Juniper Wylie (I know! Some name, huh?!) was the first of James and Agnes’ children to be born in the United States, which likely inspired them including “George Washington” as a part of his name.

When I thought about this story, I was moved by the great lengths that a father would go to in hopes of securing a better future for his family. James Wylie was separated from his family for six years. I’ll never know the particulars of his decision, but I feel comfortable in supposing that the separation was only endured because it had to be.

Though our ancestors lived long before us, in a different time, the human struggles of their existence were, in many ways, just like ours. They lived and loved and struggled and endured and hoped for their families just like we do. And that’s something worth remembering.

At first, the names on your family tree may only feel like faceless names and birth dates, but it IS possible to bring those names to life. Once you start digging and asking questions about who your ancestors were, though they may be slow at first, the connections will come. Towards the end of the novel, a volunteer at Rose Creek’s historical museum tells Kate that sometimes we get so busy looking forward, we forget to look back.

I believe there is value in looking back, in remembering who our ancestors were, and considering how they contributed to who we are today.

In case you were Wondering. . . And also, Thank You.

The middle of July.

Can someone please tell me when it became the middle of July?!

I’m guessing it has something to do with the passage of time and blinking and then suddenly summer is over and your children are all walking and talking and then they’ve moved away and gotten jobs and houses and cars and children of their own.

I mean, not all at once. Maybe all that takes three or four blinks instead of just one. I will say though, my baby IS walking and talking (Okay, fine. He isn’t actually talking. It’s more like barking whenever he sees the dog. But I know what he’s really saying is “Hey Mamma look there’s the doggy.” It’s true. I get that from his cute little “woof” sound. And because I get it, IT TOTALLY COUNTS AS A WORD.) and he’s growing up oh, so very fast.

And also, so is my book. Growing up, I mean. It’s even earned a couple of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, a few of which weren’t even written by family members. I know! Strangers read my book! And they liked it!

I’m so appreciative guys, to everyone that is reading and taking the time to let me know how they feel about the book. It means so much to get feedback and makes so much of the writing and revising and the staying up late and the getting up early just to squeeze in a little more time to write worth it. So thank you. Have I said that? Thank you, thank you, thank you. I still get a little overwhelmed when I see the book on my bookshelf, my name on the cover. I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually, but for now, i’m just grateful. Grateful and humbled by the love and support and the genuine happiness that has been expressed by so many friends and family members, and now strangers too! It means the world. I’m gonna say it one more time, okay? Then I promise I’m done.

Thank you!

Want to hear a funny story? So the wonderful beautiful big white farmhouse in the novel? The one that Kate inherits? The one in Rose Creek? (Are we all together here? Good.) It really exists. I mean, not precisely. But there IS a house very close to the airport and the elementary school that are in the novel (and that do really exist, for real, just as described) that I’ve seen across the valley. I’ve never seen it up close, but from a distance, I can’t help but think every time I see it, “THAT is Kate’s house!” So yesterday after spending an eternally long day inside with sick children and a sick husband and a baby that wanted to be held constantly, I decided to get out of the house and go for a drive and go and find that house. It was inspiration in the writing of an entire novel. It deserved to be found!

And it was. I absolutely found the house that so perfectly fits with my vision of what Kate’s century old farmhouse looks like in the novel. Except, gosh darn it, there are PEOPLE living in this house. People that aren’t Kate! Working in the yard, feeding their chickens. As I pulled up the dead end road RIGHT INTO THEIR DRIVEWAY WHILE THEY WERE ALL SITTING ON THE PORCH WONDERING WHAT THE CRAZY WOMAN IN THE MINIVAN WAS DOING, I suddenly got scared and turned right around and went the other direction.

In hindsight, I probably should have just gone up and told them their house was in my novel. I bet they would’ve let me take a picture. Maybe? Maybe not? Perhaps I should call first? To keep from having to belly crawl through someone’s bushes to snap a picture of what Kate’s house looks like in my mind, I did the next best thing. I searched Google images. First, there are a lot of old white farmhouses in this world, and yet, I scrolled through endless rows of images before finding two that mostly come close to the house I see in my mind. And so I share them with you now…

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I think I love this one the most. I will live in an old farmhouse one day…

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This one is probably a little big, but it was built in the right century, even the right decade to be Kate’s house so I included it for historical accuracy. Since, you know, we’re talking about a house I made up and stuff.

Maybe one day I’ll be able to snag a photo of the actual, in the flesh (in the wood?) inspiration house, but for now, random internet photos will have to suffice.

Let’s talk image credits, shall we? The first photo is a home that I believe is located somewhere in Oregon. I tried to track the photo’s original source, but was unable to do so. Google Images kept pulling up a link that was broken.  So. If this is your photo, or your house, please don’t be mad. Please do send me an email, okay? Thank you, and also your house is really beautiful?! 

The second photo is a home in Virginia, previously known as The Dragon Run Inn. It was a Bed and Breakfast until November, of 2012 when its owners retired. The photo was borrowed from their original website, www.dragonruninn.com.