Today Constance Walker, a new friend and fellow writer, is joining me on the porch. Sunday we celebrated our fathers. I think you’ll find Constance’s answer to the frequently asked question about where authors get ideas for their stories a fitting honor to her father.
I think the beginning of my newest novel, Storytime at the Villa Maria, came about when my Dad moved into a senior citizens’ facility.
I thought about all the memories, all the long-time friendships, the neighbors he knew so well, the familiar stores where he shopped, the sounds of the neighborhood … how do you say goodbye to all that?
How do you leave a house that has been “home” to all your dreams, your hopes and your fears? Where your every known emotion existed, where every celebration — whether a life or a death or a graduation or birthday, or a new job — mattered?
And how do you begin again when you’re in your golden years?
Next I played the “what if?” game – what if the central character didn’t want to move? How would that affect his children?
That evolved into thinking about the other seniors who lived in the building: They all would be about the same age – they all lived through the bad and good times of America. Many of the men and women were World War 2 veterans. And most importantly, all these people had memories. All these people had life stories to tell. What if they shared their storytelling as a way of bonding?
So, I dug back into my own remembrances of hot summer evenings and sitting on our front steps with family and friends and neighbors. I recalled listening to the senior adults as they talked – in everyday conversation — about their jobs, their families and friends, even the weather and how “really hot or cold it was a few years ago.”
They spoke about when they were kids or teens or young adults … when and where they went, their first jobs, politics, their favorite baseball teams, the music they danced to in the 1930’s and 1940’s, and just about all phases of nostalgia they wanted to share about their lives.
I put bits and pieces together, added my own thoughts and imagination and that was the beginning of the book I knew I wanted to write.
One more thing — about the characters in the novel — none of them are real — although, I must admit, I wish they were, because, in writing them, and I know this sounds strange, I absolutely loved them. But they are imagined composites of people I have known or met – or even just briefly seen, and they exist only in Storytime at the Villa Maria. I hope you like them.
A charming novel of senior citizens, storytelling, nostalgia, and a world gone by but not forgotten.
Dominick, who married “the most beautiful woman in the world”
Sophie, who is haunted by terrifying memories of the Holocaust
Ella, who made “sweet apple pies” for her war veteran husband
Tom, whose music lured women into his arms
Artie, who is plagued by the ghosts of long dead soldiers
Frank, who can’t let go of his yesterdays, though a better tomorrow beckons
Join them and others as they gather every Monday night in the library at the Villa Maria to share their memories, their fears, and their dreams.
Storytime at the Villa Maria is an unforgettable book about life lived and still to be lived, and about the mysterious threads of joy and heartache and love that are woven into every life—including your own!
Available from these retailers:
BARNES AND NOBLE Paperback
BARNES AND NOBLE Nook Book
Constance Walker is the author of The Shimmering Stones of Winter’s Light, Lost Roses of Ganymede House, In Time, and Warm Winter Love among other works of Gothic and contemporary fiction.
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Thanks so much for sharing, Constance. Storytime at the Villa Maria sounds like a wonderful read and a lovely tribute to your father.