The Real People In My Fiction

Today, I’d like to talk about my first book, A Little Company (Outskirts Press, 2007), and some of the real people behind its main characters.

The story takes place during the Great Depression, deep in the Northern New York woods. It centers on a sad, frightened and very lonely little girl named Pauline. Some people who read the book asked me: was Pauline real?

No, not as she exists in the book. But she is based upon a child who grew up to be someone very important… my mother, the former Lillian Newalis. The first edition of ALC looked like this.

ALC cover 1

It was just a stock photo I chose from the Outskirts Press library. I thought it was appropriate, given that my story talks about the brutal North Country winters, and here is this old, dilapidated house, half-buried in snow.

Eventually, I decided to personalize the cover by creating a sort of collage, using an old family photograph. The picture shows my mother when she was about nine years old. She looks so dang solemn; not even her eyes are smiling! Ah, those eyes… I covered the rest of her face with an old prayer card from a funeral. Now those sad, haunting eyes can gaze out at readers forevermore!

ALC cover 2

Although my mother was born in 1941, I set the story in 1935, simply because I was always fascinated by the Depression era. Also, the further back I went, the more believable Pauline’s isolation would be.

Pauline’s brother Walter is based on my mother’s younger brother, my Uncle Bill. Walter is a family name, and kind of cool, in an old-fashioned sort of way, I think.

Lillian and Billy as

Lillian and Billy as “Pauline and Walter.”

My character’s name, Pauline, honors a family friend who was like a surrogate mother to my mom, and a substitute grandma to me. She was a colorful character, whip-smart, and wickedly funny. She lived to be ninety-two years old.

The Real Pauline

The Real Pauline

Unfortunately, neither of these great ladies lived to see ALC published. Both died in 2006.

I hope that they would have enjoyed seeing themselves memorialized in the pages of A Little Company.

If you haven’t read it yet, you can order it on Amazon! Click here.


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