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New York Times  Bestselling Author

Inspiration, The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes

As I begin writing this section on the research I did for CeeCee, I realize that she’s the reason I am now a North Carolinian. How ironic!

It started in the spring of 2004, when my significant other, John, and I took a trip to New Bern, NC. At that time, we lived outside Washington, DC in an area of Northern Virginia known for its traffic, its great shopping, high real estate prices and plenty of things to do. We’d never been to New Bern before and fell instantly in love with the peace and quiet, the small town charm, and the beauty of the Neuse River. . We saw a house for sale at a price that would have been unthinkable in Northern Virginia. . . and that started us dreaming. We even called a realtor and planned to tour the available homes. By our third day in New Bern, though, we knew we could never be satisfied living in such a small town. We’d grown too accustomed to chaos, I guess. I knew, though, that I would use that area in the story that was taking shape in my mind. Some of the most significant action in CeeCee takes place in a cabin on the Neuse River, outside of New Bern.

On the way back to Virginia, we visited my stepdaughter in the Raleigh area and met with a realtor there, just to “explore.” I was especially taken with Chapel Hill, a vibrant university town with a lively downtown filled with students. I knew I’d found more of my setting, and I also knew that John and I were getting more serious about a move. (Ultimately, we chose the Raleigh area to be closer to my stepdaughter and her family, and we moved there a few months later.)

My story demanded that I know what Chapel Hill was like in the seventies, not in the twenty-first century, so my research began with contacting, through the internet, students who attended UNC during that era. People were incredibly forthcoming, and soon I had a good sense of what life had been like for the students and locals.

My friend, Marti Porter, an obstetrical nurse practitioner, and I had a truly grisly and macabre discussion about childbirth-gone-wrong over lunch at the Silver Diner.

Moms, both new and old, told me lots of tales of inadequacy with regard to caring for infants, and I had first hand knowledge about the magic of slings and baby carriers from my stepdaughter, Brittany, who sells them online. Visit Cobalt Carriers if you need a little magic for your own baby!

I studied underground groups and life on the run. A huge chunk of my research time went into learning about the legal system in North Carolina and how it would impact my characters. Several experts in the area helped me sort this out. I often have a good idea of how my story will proceed-until I learn the reality of what is and isn’t possible in the actual world. That was the case withCeeCee and I had to adjust my story and my characters to fit reality.

And then there’s the Internet. You can pick out any page in The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkesand any other book I’ve written, and there will almost certainly be some detail I’ve had to research. The Internet makes it so easy.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into the research behind CeeCee, and I hope, too, that you’ll love the story.