“How did you come up with the idea for your book?” is an important question I am often asked. Readers want to know the spark that ignited the story they are reading. In the book Long Time Coming, the plot weaves together two story threads, one concerning the family and some secondary characters and the other pertaining to an environmental issue. These vital story threads have humble beginnings.

When I was growing up, I was one of six children, and our mother’s monumental job was to feed, clothe, and discipline her four girls and two boys, doing it seamlessly and all before our father came home from work. One summer, however, mom, for some reason, decided to work at the local pickle factory as a seasonal employee, and although I don’t remember a whole lot about my early childhood, I do recall mom returning home from the pickle factory that first day, taking one look at her tribe of kids lined up on the back porch, and bursting into tears. It must have been a very hard day for her, and that recollection is why the character Elizabeth found work at the pickle factory one summer.

Our small town was located on a river emptying into a large bay, both of which supplied jobs and recreation for everyone in the area. Even though we didn’t have a paper mill, the town upriver from ours was the location for a large and flourishing mill that supplied hundreds of jobs and contaminated the river flowing into our town and the nearby bay. One summer, the river was so polluted the paint peeled in long strips from the houses situated along its banks, and that remembrance became the story of the fictional Northland Paper Company.

Although the memories were faint and the details small, they made an impression igniting the story that became the book Long Time Coming.