Inspiration, Summer’s Child

When I was a girl, my grandmother told me a terrible true story about a friend of hers. This young woman was walking across a field when she spotted an overturned basin. She kicked the basin over and was shocked to find a dead baby beneath it. The story haunted me for decades. What if, I wondered, the baby had still been alive? That question prompted the central idea for Summer’s Child, in which an eleven-year-old girl kicks over the shell of a horseshoe crab and discovers the newborn infant beneath it.

Summer’s Child was my fourth novel set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, so I was already very familiar with the setting. Still, I would take any excuse for a research trip to the Carolina coast! I knew I wanted to set a scene on the amazing, ever-changing dunes at Jockey’s Ridge. I adore those dunes! I can no longer climb them because of Rheumatoid Arthritis, but I can go there in my imagination any time. Before I became a novelist, I actually took a hang gliding class on those dunes and wrote an article about it for the travel section of the Washington Post. The experience of sailing above the sand has always stayed with me. Fortunately, I fared better than one of the hang gliding characters in Summer’s Child..

As with all my books, the research takes a backseat to the human drama. I loved creating  the ethereal Shelly, the tough “heroine” Daria, the fragile and mysterious Grace, and the perplexed, well-meaning Rory who ultimately must pull the pieces of the puzzle together—never realizing he holds one of those pieces himself.