Elizabeth's Novel, Idyllwilde - The Story behind the Story

In the spring of 2015, I decided to write a book. At the time, my life was quiet and conservative, even meek. I had just had my third child that winter, and I was exhausted if I’m honest, and a little suffocated by my life. After a pretty steady stream of disappointing reads, I decided to tell myself a story. I wrote the book I wanted to read. Something lyrical and lovely. Something dramatic but not dismal. Something both story and character driven. Something with sweeping lace skirts, but connected to my modern life. I wrote Idyllwilde.

I was beguiled by Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden and Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea, and I borrowed their strategies of interweaving modern women into a historical fiction novel. Initially, I had wanted the modern and the historical portions of the book to be about equal in the space I gave to their stories, but it was the grandeur of the 1910’s that kept me enraptured, and as I went forward I decided to write that entire portion first, and then backfill the parallel contemporary story. In the end, the modern timeline became a faint echo of the historical one, and I can’t say I have any regrets. When the finished book came up short of my goal for typical historical fiction (usually a whopping 80,000 words), I went with my instincts and cut, rather than embellishing. The result is half that length, a fast read with a slow and lyrical, almost dreamlike first act and ever growing momentum to a dramatic finish.

Writing Idyllwilde gave me the courage I needed to embrace my life as a writer and creator. I began podcasting soon after, and wrote poetry again for the first time in years. Now, I am enrolled at the state university with a double major in English (writing) and Film and Media Studies. I have written a short film for school that was well received, and have my next big novel percolating, though it is of a scope that may take years to accomplish. I guess you could say that this little novel was a gateway drug for me, and I will always have a great deal of sentimental feeling attached to it, even if it is starting to feel as though it came from a very distant time in my life, before I realized who I was and what I wanted. Still, the honesty is there, before I knew it myself. That is the way with art and creativity, I think. It’s always a bit of a self portrait, and if we’re lucky, it will resonate with other people because of that honesty and truth.