Judy Leslie inspiration for writing headshot - how to be an author

Inspiration for Writing | The Old Curiosity Shop

Inspiration for writing sometimes comes like a bolt out of the blue, but more usually, as Bentley Gates and today's How to be an Author guest writer, Judy Leslie, describe, it is more usually a long research project with many parts to it.

Judy is clearly a born story teller - as many who visited her shop would no doubt testify!

My Inspiration for Writing - The Old Curiosity Shop

by Judy Leslie

Judy Leslie inspiration for writing headshot - how to be an authorWhen I walked into the Antique shop on the corner of State and James in the historic town of Bellingham, Washington, I had no idea that I would soon become its owner and would be surrounded by things I knew nothing about. I spent the next year researching everything from grandma’s collectables to old tables and chairs. I quickly learned that there was a story attached to every object no matter how trivial it may seem to the average person. Old wedding gifts, items saved and sacrificed for, mementoes, useful and frivolous objects, all filled my shelves.

I lived in the back of the shop with my cat Betty, and cooked on an old wood stove that I fed with Presto Logs. In the evenings, I would sit in a creaky painted rocker, and scavenge through old black and white photographs and letters, pondering the lives of these long gone relatives. Scattered around me on the worn braided rag-rug, were the frozen memories from an era before I was born. Did they know someday a stranger would be pawing their personal belongings, I wondered? I tried piecing an image together of what life must have been like when these items were new. Were these people happy back then, had life turned out for them as planned?

Living the Inspiration

When people came into my shop I would offer them a fresh baked cookie, a cup of tea, and a comfortable chair to sit and stay a while. We would swap stories about old uncle’s Joe’s or aunt Gertrude’s hand-me-down trinkets and what they might be worth to someone that wanted that ‘junk’. Then I would remind them that perhaps they held some value that couldn’t be bought. Like a child’s first pair of ice skates or a set of hand embroidered tea towels made as a gift by a spinster losing her sight. Once I stirred their imagination they looked around my shop with fresh eyes and became curious about the objects surrounding them.

I would share what I had learned about whatever they were attracted to and soon they would be walking out the door with their new treasure. It was the story they bought, the article was just evidence of the legend. So, it only made sense that someday I would become a historical fiction writer.


Now, many years later with the shop long gone, I’m researching the internet and locating out-of-print publications to find secrets about the past. Instead of antiques, I collect fragments of news articles about the lives of real people most have forgotten. I loved doing the detective work and unwinding the threads of these various characters from long ago and weaving them back together again in a new version of their story.

My novel, For The Love of Ireland evolved from information I discovered about a Chicago couple and their connection to Ireland's Land League, and the secret activities of the Irish-American organization the Clan na Gael. The fact that the wife was a journalist writing under a male name and the husband president of this secret organization made it a perfect story to write. During the 1880s Margaret Sullivan had managed to become a popular American journalist, while hiding her gender, and she was a staunch Irish Nationalist. I learned that she had ties not only to Ireland’s Michael Davitt, but Parliament member Charles Stewart Parnell, as well. I pondered what it must have been like for her during those times, wanting to help Ireland and yet restricted by an unscrupulous husband and a society that perceived women as the weaker sex. I was lucky that she wrote a book in 1881 and that I could get my hands on a copy. After reading it, I felt as though she reached out from the past and whispered For The Love of Ireland in my ear.

If you would like to know more about my novel For The Love of Ireland, please go to www.for-the-love-of-ireland.com . There you can read about the real people my story characters are based on.

And the next time you pass an Antique shop pop in and bring your imagination with you. You never know what story you might leave with.

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