Thursday, March 16, 2017

Gazing Out Windows in Ireland and on the Novel Page

By Lisa Alber

My morning writing spot at the B&B.
St. Patrick's Day is coming up, and it's reminding me that a year ago I was in County Clare, Ireland. I spent three glorious weeks performing novel research, hanging out in pubs, and writing all morning long in the sunny breakfast room at my B&B. 

PATH INTO DARKNESS, the third County Clare mystery, comes out in August, and it takes place at this time of year, in the weeks leading up to and just after Easter. This was why I chose to go to Ireland in the spring. Spring is amazing there, rainy to be sure, but so changeable. The cloud formations, rain, even snow!, warmth, sun, rainbows, wind. Three weeks is enough to see the change in a season, and every morning I looked out the big picture windows and noticed daffodils, the arrival of magpies, not to mention the neighborhood farmer who always waved as he drove past on his tractor. 

One of the themes of PATH INTO DARKNESS is resurrection, so Easter time is a fitting time of year in which to set the book, eh? By resurrection, I mean by means of healing -- emotional healing, psychological healing, spiritual healing, physical healing. I didn't set out to do this, but once I noticed that the novel was leading me in this direction, I paid attention to it.

Here's a small snippet that I wrote while I was Ireland last year:

Once again, Merrit surveyed the world from her bedroom window. Watching the weather had become part of her morning routine, similar to reading her horoscope when she was a kid. Today a hulking grey mass of cloud floated north, taking its rain with it. In its wake, sunshine streaked through lighter fluffy clouds and a rainbow grew out of the ground in an iridescent arc. A flock of starlings swirled like an airborne school of fish and settled on a telephone line while lambs bleated for their ewe mamas in the neighbor’s field. Spring had truly arrived. She decided to consider this a sign of a good day to come.

And here's one of many hilarious things about writing: Sometimes we insert ourselves into the stories without realizing it. In the first draft, Merrit, for example, looked out windows a lot. This was me transcribing my experience in the breakfast room watching the weather and spring's arrival. During revisions, I realized that, story-wise, Merrit's behavior made sense because of the growing pangs she's going through as a relative newcomer to Ireland. Here's another passage that elucidates her state of mind.

Hello, morning. Merrit plowed fingers through her hair and shuffled to her bedroom window. A haze of rain obscured the view of Mullaghamore and the countryside. She always seemed to be looking out windows. Her new pastime, watching the world from afar.
“Fantastic,” she mumbled.
A depressing realization first thing in the morning. She needed coffee.

The needing-coffee thing? Yeah, that's me too. Can't live without my coffee. I hadn't realized that Merrit is the same way.

I leave you with three of my favorite pictures taken from my writing spot at the B&B.

Toward the end of the trip I discovered that I'd met this man on a previous trip to Ireland. He's the ex-husband of my former B&B hostess. 

The rain storms (and rainbows) came and went with the clouds.

Woke up one morning to snow!
Lisa Alber is the author of the County Clare mysteries. Her debut novel, Kilmoon, has been called "utterly poetic" and "a stirring debut." Her second in the County Clare mysteries, WHISPERS IN THE MIST came out in August from Midnight Ink Books. Look for PATH INTO DARKNESS in August 2017. Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging round out her distractions. Facebook | Twitter

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