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That Simple Fusion of Memory and Imagination

I’ve been asked how I came up with the idea for The Woman in White Marble. The answer is fairly simple and somewhat personal. You’ve probably noticed the book is dedicated to Peter Crook. Peter was a good friend of mine who died a little over a year ago. He was the manager of the Skinburness Hotel in Cumbria, Northern England. Yes, there really was a Skinburness Hotel, though Peter probably wouldn’t have recognised the hotel I described in the book. Unfortunately, the Skinburness is now derelict, boarded up and falling down. Only lack of funds has kept the owners from demolishing the old building. Very sad. Anyway…

I took part in Peter’s memorial service and a couple of days later I was lying on the sofa watching TV. I say watching TV, but I was really thinking about my relationship with Peter and didn’t much notice what was on. Suddenly, something on the TV sparked with my memories, and within sixty seconds or so a broad outline of a story appeared before me. For the life of me I can’t remember what I saw or heard on the TV and it’s not really important. And I don’t want to imply that the “sudden appearance” was somehow mysterious or mystical. It’s just that in a minute or so my memories and imagination joined together in the notion of story. In fact, my imaginary hotel bears little resemblance to the actual hotel, though I knew the real hotel well. While there were rumours that the Skinburness Hotel was indeed haunted, there was no sexy statue in any corridor. And while it is possible a hotel with a long history may have experienced a death or two, I never heard of any. I certainly never heard of a murder in the hotel.

Peter and Jane CrookI lay on the sofa for several minutes thinking about the story broadly taking shape in my mind, then got up, turned off the TV, went upstairs and started writing. I have no idea where the gumshoe voice came from, but once it got started I enjoyed it so kept it up. It really was Drake. It took me awhile to settle on Drake’s last name, but when it came it fit. The other character names fell into place fairly easily. Why was Zuri Manyika from Zimbabwe? Well, I’m not sure. I’ve been to several African countries several times and Zimbabwe was one of the most interesting, difficult and inspiring. I like the idea of bringing into a story characters and settings beyond what we’re used to, and I’ve seen first-hand some of the handiwork of Zanu-PF. So, Zuri ended up from Zimbabwe. And the statue? Well, she had to be beautiful and have an unusual and dramatic history. I’ve been to Prague several times and thought it interesting and fun to take Drake to the Czech Republic for a little fact finding that would lead to intrigue. As for the story-within-the-story element, I very much like science fiction and thought it would be a humorous way to help the reader know Drake. Obviously Drake’s novel, The Woman in Blue Skies, is a comment on the author himself.

I like to think that Peter would have really enjoyed the book. We did take long walks sorting out the world. And we really did complain about the weather a lot.

Copyright © 2015 Dale Rominger

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