Now that The Gate House is to be re-released, I have been thinking about how that book came to be. I had always enjoyed writing, and had a few small things published, but didn’t take myself seriously as a writer. And like many people, I had it in the back of my mind that I would like to write a book.
I had created the character of Nara, along with her father, in another unfinished story. When my husband and I visited England in 2004, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Spalding, Lincolnshire, called the Gate House, so named because historically it was a stopping point on the railroad. The house intrigued me, as well as the cathedral in the city of Lincoln nearby. I could imagine a story taking place involving those two locations.
Spalding is a relatively small market town in Lincolnshire. Historically it has been a center of tulip growing and has close ties to Holland. Author Margaret Dickinson has written several novels set in the area, including The Tulip Girl. The river Welland runs through the town, creating a beautiful space for walking and biking. In my novel, Nara’s new romantic interest, Alex Collier, lives in a house facing the river, and the two met on the path that runs along the river and through the town. I also set some scenes in the book in the historic church of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, built in the late thirteenth century. Since the story involves thefts of artifacts from historic places, this was a perfect setting for these nefarious activities.
While staying at the Gate House, we were treated to a full Scottish breakfast. There is a slight difference from a full English breakfast, but the owner of the bed and breakfast was Scottish, so that was what he made for us. It consisted of eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, toast, and black pudding. The black pudding, which is traditionally made with pork blood, is what makes it Scottish, or so our host told us. I didn’t eat any, no offense to my Scottish ancestors.
I visited Spalding again the following year on a research trip to the area as I was completing my book. I did not, unfortunately, stay at the Gate House again, as it was too far out of town and I didn’t have a car. But just being there gave me more opportunity to get a feel for the area, which is important to me in creating the setting of a story.
The characters have become so real to me after three completed novels, and one more almost completed. I feel as if I could go to Spalding or Lincoln and meet one of them on the street.
Full Scottish breakfast below.