Late last year I wrote an article for Rochester Women magazine about local author, Abbie Williams, whose newest novel, Heart of a Dove, was about to be released by Central Avenue Publishing. Her novel (which is an excellent read, by the way) is about a young woman in the early post Civil War days who ends up a prostitute. It was an interesting premise, and I wondered at where she got her ideas. For this particular novel, she informed me that there was a particularly high percentage of widows and orphans — particularly in the South — and she started with a single orphaned character and asked herself, “How would she survive?” From that one conversation, my mind began spinning. What an awesome way to begin a book; to take a character and put her in the midst of a difficult situation, then ask yourself “How would she survive?” This conversation — and this question in particular — was the seed that began my novel, The Edge of Nowhere.
That afternoon, I left my interview with Abbie and couldn’t get that one question out of my head. How do people survive in difficult situations? What wouldn’t they do to save themselves or their loved ones. From these thoughts, I began to think about my paternal grandmother.
My grandmother, Edna Hall Hedrick Golden, was a strong woman — both physically and in spirit. I grew up hearing stories about how aggressive she was in her prime, and how most people gave her a wide berth when she was angry. She was not a woman to be trifled with, and she wasted no time putting you in your place. For all of that, I loved her though I never understood her. She wasn’t the warm and welcoming grandmother that so many of my friends enjoyed. Rather, she was very no-nonsense and said what was on her mind. She passed away when I was in my early 20s, so I never had the chance to know her as an adult or to explore who or why she was the woman she was. My conversation with Abbie Williams opened the floodgates of questions I’d buried over the years and I began to wonder, “Who was this woman?”
My grandmother was twenty when she married my grandfather. He was much older than she — approximately twenty-three years older — and widowed with five children, most of whom were fairly close in age to my grandmother. Upon their marriage, he moved my grandmother to his family farm to finish raising his children. Together they would have five more children before his death some eight years later, just before the peak of the worst years of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl.
In those years, everybody had it hard. Wall Street had crashed only five years earlier in what later became known as Black Tuesday, the Dust Bowl had fully settled into Oklahoma, and the nation was experiencing the hardships and poverty of The Great Depression. And, on a small farm in central Oklahoma was a city girl with a combined ten children and stepchildren, all of whom looked to her for guidance.
So began the first of my questions: How did she do it? How did a 28 year old woman with no resources survive with ten children? Families all around them were starving, crops were dead in the fields, everywhere you looked was pure devastation from the wind erosion caused by the Dust Bowl; and here you have young woman with nearly a dozen mouths to feed. Many grown men were broken under the circumstances; but my grandmother persevered. The adversity only seemed to make her stronger. I believe there is nothing she wouldn’t have done for her children. And so a character began shaping in my mind. A character of complete fiction, inspired by the strength and tenacity of my own grandmother. That character became Victoria Hastings Harrison Greene, the main character in my forthcoming novel by Penner Publishing, entitled The Edge of Nowhere.
To Be Continued…