By Linda Lovely
My heroines all have different personalities but they all share certain traits. They’re smart, brave, stubborn, and have a great capacity for love. In other words, all have inherited some of my mother’s traits. Marguerite Kennedy Willis, my mom, is a model for my heroines’ better qualities. A heroine of the first order.
We had a creepy basement. Our oil furnace alternately growled like a bear and clanked like Scrooge dragging his chains. The forbidding furnace replaced our coal bin. It seemed ready to swallow me up or hide monsters in its inky recesses. What looked like hair from buried creatures mysteriously poked through nooks and crannies in the planked floors. Shelves lined with old Mason jars hid unidentifiable slime.
|Marguerite Kennedy Willis|
Sometimes at night when the basement began to belch a series of terrifying creaks and groans, my sister and I would freeze, certain a boogeyman was about to creep up the stairs. Mom’s reply? “It’s just
Casper the Friendly Ghost.
Nothing to worry about. I’ll go check.” I don’t recall if Mom grabbed any
weapon (her choices would have included a baseball bat, umbrella, or cast-iron
frying pan—no guns). But she would descend to the basement, check things out,
and return with a smile. “Like I said, just Casper the Friendly Ghost.”
As an adult, I asked Mom about
Casper, and she laughed. Mom admitted the
noises often seemed as scary to her as they did to us, but she didn’t want her
daughters to grow up fearful. Mom was brave.
Funny thing. I don’t ever remember seeing Mom in her bed. I’m certain I did, but it’s not among my memories. I grew up in a single-parent household, and Mom worked fulltime—our all-female household’s sole support. When we were little, a great aunt stayed with us during the week. Still Mom did all the laundry, a lot of the cooking, and she cleaned the house on Saturdays (a family affair when my sisters and I were old enough to participate).
For years, if I happened to wake around , I’d find Mom either ironing clothes or studying. After she graduated high school during the Depression (early since she skipped two grades), Mom immediately went to work to help support her family so her younger brother could stay in school. Later, when we were kids, Mom took accounting correspondence courses so she could get a better job. She did. Of course, it didn’t pay the same as the man she replaced, but that’s another story. Mom was smart, determined, hard-working, and fiercely loyal to her family.
Like any teenager, I had my share of rows with my mother since I inherited her stubborn streak. But I never doubted her love, and I always, always admired her character. Though she’s been gone many years, I still miss her. Yet I often hear what I like to think is her voice, sharing the mantra she ingrained in me when I was young—“You can do anything you set your mind to.”
I dedicated my last novel—LIES: SECRETS CAN KILL—to Mom. I was waiting for the perfect fit, a novel with a heroine who demonstrates all her qualities. Mom inspired this book, a 1938 romantic suspense set in my mother’s era. Even though my other novels feature other dedications, I’ve yet to write a novel that isn’t influenced by my mother. Thank you.