My heart broke a little when I heard the news, recently, that Maeve Binchy had passed away. The legendary Irish author dazzled readers with her heartfelt stories, many of which have been made into movies and anointed by the likes of Oprah Winfrey. But I didn’t know any of that when I stumbled upon one of her novels as a 15-year-old in Poulsbo, Washington. Opening her books was like stepping into the pages of another world. I loved how she made me feel as a reader, and I loved how real her characters seemed, how relatable they were. I didn’t know it then, but in those early years of reading Binchy’s work, I was learning about the type of novelist I wanted to be. Someday.
I had always been interested in writing, perhaps since my first grade hand-written and illustrated book titled “A Tug Boat Dream” won a young author award (if the judges at Silverdale Elementary School only knew how that little award ended up propelling a future career in fiction!). Over the years, I experimented with different writing styles, different genres and voices. And, in the deep, dark depths of my computer, there may be a novel or two that I pray never sees the light of day. However, in all of my literary experimentation, I always came back to the things I learned through reading Maeve Binchy’s books. And before I sat down to write what would become my debut novel, The Violets of March, I thought about what made Binchy’s stories so beautiful, and I decided that I wanted to be an author who made you feel, who wrote from the heart (rather than wrote what would “sell”), and who created beautiful scenes, places and worlds that readers wouldn’t want to leave.
I thank Maeve Binchy for teaching me these lessons through her books.
If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy of Sarah’s latest novel, BLACKBERRY WINTER, now’s your chance. We’re giving a copy away today. Just leave a comment on this post.
Seattle, 1932. Single mother Vera Ray kisses her three-year-old son, Daniel, goodnight and departs to work the night-shift at a local hotel. She emerges to discover that a May snowstorm has blanketed the city, and that her son has disappeared into the heart of the storm. Outside, she finds his teddy bear lying face down in the cold snowy streets.
Seattle, 2010. Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge is assigned to cover the May 1 “blackberry winter ” storm and its predecessor that occurred on the same date nearly eighty years earlier. Learning of the unsolved abduction, Claire vows to unearth the truth—only to discover that she and Vera are linked in unexpected ways.