Living on both sides of the Pond has given me a diversity of inspiration to tap. I used Scotland for the setting of The Invasion of Falgannon Isle, the first book in the Sisters of Colford Hall series (Dorchester Love Spell, December 2006). However, with Riding the Thunder the second book in the series (October 2007), I drew heavily on a small part of my childhood and early teens to conjure the setting and people for my offbeat world of The Windmill.
People reading the book continually comment that the setting is so strong they almost expect the place really to exist. Well, it did once. Long time ago, before urban sprawl took away the quirkiness of the odd spot on Nicholasville Pike, a halfway point between Lexington and Nicholasville, Kentucky, and turned the area into shopping centers and apartments, there was actually a restaurant called The Windmill.
Mysteriously, the place wasn’t special. Most people who ever ate there would likely have relegated it to labels of ‘quaint’, ‘truck stop’, or even ‘greasy spoon’; just a rundown diner that seemed forevermore stuck in the 1950s. There was also a motel, swim club and drive-in smack in the middle of horse country, as odd as that may seem. Fact stranger than fiction! And The Windmill’s jukebox had tunes years out-of-date, and it either was possessed or created with a mind of its own. Press the buttons on one song and often you’d end up with “Surfin’ Bird”, or “Tell Laura I Love Her” instead of the Beach Boys’ “Help me, Rhonda”.
On Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, the drive-in would run dusk-to-dawn specials, one price for a carload and you were treated to all the B-movies you could want. Generally, the marquee touted titles such as Vincent Price’s The Haunted Palace, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee’s epic battle in Dracula, Prince of Darkness, or the ‘low-rent’ Roger Corman’s The Undead, all following the Woody Woodpecker cartoons.
Some of the people were also real once. There truly was an Oo-it, a funny young man who used to get too excited, though memories of him have since become mixed with images of actor Steve Bercemi,. Sam the cook was based on a janitor in my school. All the kids adored Henry. Laura and Tommy were patterned on a young couple who died very tragically in a car accident. None of these people touched my life in a profound way, other than giving a passing smile, yet they, too, are burned into my memory so deeply that they took root and slowly filled my muse with the story of Jago and Asha, and the weird place called The Windmill.
I only spent a couple weeks each year in the area, thus I am not sure why my brief visits there remain shining in my memories, so special. That they have for decades has been a puzzle to me. The riddle has led me to ponder if the oddball place was on some leyline, that there was some magical force, which made the very mundane very enchanting to me. But then again, perhaps that is what makes a writer a writer. They can look at the ordinary, a place in the middle of nowhere, a small dot on the map that thousands of other people passed through and then quickly forgot, and instead see the beauty and wonder in the sights, the sounds, the smells of a place so out-of-step with time. And dream…
Riding the Thunder with “Lost for Words” by Mike Duncan (mike-duncan.org) used with permission
A big thank you to Fresh Fiction for allowing me to take a trip down the side roads of Memory Lane!