01-19-19 – Judith Ashley – My Sanctuaries and Safe Havens: Writing and Spiritual Practices

Friday, May 25, 2012

Celebrating The Ones Who Inspire Us

I can’t wait for June 16, 2012. That’s when I make a book signing/benefit appearance at the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum in Arnolds Park/Lake Okoboji, Iowa. All profits from museum sales of my latest mystery, NO WAKE ZONE, will benefit the museum. 

The benefit is my chance to salute someone who inspired me—Stephen Ross Kennedy, my late cousin. NO WAKE ZONE is dedicated to Steve, one of the Maritime Museum’s founders and its first director. Steve also was the first captain of the Queen II, an excursion boat that plies the waters of Okoboji West every summer.

While book launches and signings are always fun, this one is truly special. It lets me spotlight a life that mattered. In no small part, Steve’s infectious enthusiasm is responsible for helping a number of the lake region’s family fun staples continue to flourish. His life and contributions should be a lesson to us all when we’re tempted to shrug our shoulders and ask “why bother?”

Steve didn’t graduate from college. It wasn’t his cup of tea. But he loved the Iowa Great Lakes and read every book about the region’s history he could lay his hands on. He worked in a drug store, joined the Chamber. When the idea of bringing a grand excursion boat back to the lakes took root, he sought donations door-to-door. When the Queen II was christened, he was ecstatic to be asked to be its first captain. Never mind that he’d never driven anything larger than his beloved Hafer motorboat. As Steve guided the Queen II around Lake Okoboji, his humor-laced patter brought patrons back again and again. Soon the Queen paid off its debts and banked profits were saved to build the Maritime Museum, a magical time capsule that includes all types of memorabilia from nineteenth century ladies bathing suits to boats with gleaming mahogany exteriors.

While the “cousin” in NO WAKE ZONE is fictional, there’s no doubt who inspired my affable character, Captain Ross. And I’m delighted to report the institutions that play major roles in my novel are real treasures of the Iowa Great Lakes. While I hope you’ll read my new mystery, I hope even more that you have occasion to board the Queen II for a cruise and visit the Iowa Great Lakes Maritime Museum located in Historic Arnolds Park. Maybe you’ll even hear Steve’s good-natured chuckle on the breeze.

Do you like to read books set in real locations? Authors, do you ever salute your loved ones by incorporating their personalities in your cast of characters?


Paty Jager said...

I do like to read books set in real locations and I incorporate personalities of people I know into my stories as well. Fun post! The book sounds like a great read.

Abigail Sharpe said...

I haven't incorporated any of my relatives in a story, but I did use my friend's in-laws. Does that count? :)

What a lovely tribute to your cousin, Linda.

Robin Weaver said...


If I wrote about my relatives, I'd have to kill off most of then. lol
Just kidding

Linda Lovely said...

Well, I don't admit to using the personalities of people I know with less-than-sterling qualities. And they're reincarnated in very different "wrappers"--appearance, age, job, background. One time I even changed the gender!

Sarah Raplee said...

I lived for 21 years in Iowa, so your post brought back wonderful memories! Your cousin was what I call a 'quiet hero', someone who makes the world a better place before moving on.

As an author, I do sometimes base characters on people I've known. Most of my animal characters are pets I've known and loved in disguise.

Thank you for your generous donation to the Maritime Museum!

Judith Ashley said...

My characters are based not on actual people as much as on actual situations. The heroine of my first book was a child protective service worker as was I; she transitioned into working with older adults as have I. The issues and conflicts they face are ones I know about either first hand or because of my 40+ years working in the social service profession.

As for setting? I enjoy reading a book set in a location I know only if the author has done her homework and I can picture the people at places I know. It is a major turn-off to read a story where the author has not done the work.

I agree with Sarah, your cousin, Steve, is a 'quiet hero' who does what he does because of his passion and he does leave the world a better place.

A wonderful tribute to a much loved man.

Ellis Vidler said...

If I wrote about my family, they'd kill me! But I use facets of real people in most of my characters. How could we not be inspired, for good or ill, by those we love and honor or those we'd like to make disappear. Your tribute to your cousin is beautiful, and you found an excellent mystery to showcase his character.

Linda Lovely said...

Thanks, everyone for commenting. Sarah, sometime you'll have to tell me where in Iowa you called home. Judith, I agree Steve was a quiet hero, and as you can see from the statue of him at Arnolds Park, lots of other folks agreed. Ellis and Robin, there are family members who would kill me if I wrote about them (if they recognized themselves).

Delle Jacobs said...

I use real places a lot, but usually I then fictionalize them. The hero's home in Lady Wicked was almost a copy of Haddon Hall in Derbyshire, England, for example. And while I don't use real people, I do give their names to characters as a way to remember my loved ones. My mother Nelda appears in Fire Dance, and father Will shows up in several books. Brother David is in Sins of the Heart as Davy Polruhan. And dear hubby Jeffrey became the heroine's beloved uncle Geoffrey in my upcoming book Faerie. So whenever I have to do a fresh edit, or find an excerpt for someone's blog, I come across their names and smile.

Naomi Baltuck said...

Part of the fun of reading is learning about a new place. I love historically accurate fiction for the same reason. The location of my novel, Real Troopers, is in Tuscany, and I have a real place in mind when I am describing the setting, but I did change the name of the castello where the protagonist and her friends are staying. Fun question!

Gloria Alden said...

My brother, Jerry, was the inspiration for one of my characters who return in every book. Although, Ed, the character, is slightly different there is much that is similar, mostly their looks and love of gardening. He's also honest,intelligent and caring, too. I haven't quite nailed my brothers weird sense of humor yet, though. My brother died a little over a year ago, and I miss him terribly.

Your cousin sounds like a special person, too.

Linda Lovely said...

Gloria, Am so sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds as if your brother is certainly still with you in spirit. I understand how hard it is to get someone's humor right. Like you, I had a difficult time capturing Steve's special brand.