Seeds of Inspiration

Two of my short stories were published this month. In the “The Velvet Slippers”, housekeeper Mildred Munz plots a solution to intolerable work conditions.

Liam Barrett, first generation Irish American and a police officer, makes his debut in “The Cattle Raid of Adams”. Liam has set aside his personal ambition and taken on the responsibility of supporting his widowed mother and siblings following the death of his father. He must solve the riddle of a disappearing bull while dealing with a headstrong younger brother.Child workers N. Adams MA

These two short stories are set during the Gilded Age in Adams and North Adams, Massachusetts. Located in the northern Berkshires, this is the place where my Irish ancestors settled after immigrating in the 1860’s. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s it was home to the cotton mills where Lewis Hines photographed working children, bringing national attention to child labor and the adoption of child labor laws.

During a genealogy-research trip to Adams a few years ago, I was struck by the charm of the two towns, and their proximity to Pittsfield and Lenox. At the same time children were laboring in cotton mills, the nouveau riche and at least one robber baron lived in “summer cottages” just a few miles away.

By the time Hines took this photo in North Adams, circa 1911, my family no longer worked in the mills although in the previous century, most of the Gannon and Barrett children went to work when they were fourteen years old. By the time this photo was taken, my family, still in Adams, owned bars, dress shops and farms. One of my grandfather’s cousins built the Barrett hotel now the Barrett House, across the street from the railway station, where it still stands today.

It was these conditions that led to the rise of unions, the Molly Maguires and the Pinkertons. You can imagine how the proximity of these two populations, the robber barons next door to the immigrant laborers, was fraught with tension and ripe with inspiration. This summer, I will be working on Book I in the Liam Barrett series.

Mysteristas: what are you summer writing plans?

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20 thoughts on “Seeds of Inspiration”

  1. Keenan, looking forward to reading! My first daughter was born in North Adams and I really enjoyed living in the Berkshires (went to school there). The old mills have always fascinated (and semi-haunted) me.

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  2. Mining family history is always good fodder for stories. This summer, I’ll be starting a novel based on my WWII character from my Mystery Most Historical story, “Home Front Homicide.”

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  3. Fascinating to hear some of the history behind these stories—and good luck with your work on Book I! I’ve got summer writing plans too… too ambitious likely (but won’t share, don’t want to jinx). 🙂

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  4. Read both the stories you reference here and can’t wait for more! The rich soil that comprises your ancestry is crying out to be tilled and seeded. We readers will enjoy the bounty that ensues.

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  5. Those are wonderful stories! Where can we find them? Such interesting inspiration, too!

    This summer I must finish my 4th Nell book, as it is due at the editor’s.

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  6. What a great post and how lovely to be able to have so much living history in your family.

    My writing plans are to get a handle on marketing…and to have the still untitled Swope #3 ready for the editor.

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  7. Fascinating! For me, I’ll be busy playing catch up this summer to put marketing pieces in place for the spring 2018 launch of a new series, as well as planning a second series at the bequest of my agent. If I play my cards right, at the end of 2020 I could have 10 more books out, 11 if I count my spine surgery memoir. If I don’t play my cards right, I’ll, you know, have fewer than that ….

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  8. Congrats! I don’t know what I’m going to do this summer–hire enough babysitting just to keep sane and try to keep up with work and writing. We’ll see!

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  9. Congratulations on those to publications! Way to go!

    This summer I’ll be sorting out the plot, and doing the research for, my next book. It’s beginning to grab me and that’s a good sign.

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