Set in 1920s Los Angeles, the compelling final installment in New York Times bestselling author Kate Kerrigan's sweeping immigrant trilogy begun in Ellis Island and City of Hope, Land of Dreams is a story of family, love, danger, and ambition in Hollywood during World War II. Here, Kate gives us a behind-the-book glance at her experience writing Land of Dreams, and shares her rituals of research.
For me history is a visceral, present force in my life. Of course I read for research but, for this writer, nothing beats talking to people and having the real life experience of walking the streets of the places I am writing about.
My own Irish mother and (late) grandmother are my muses and their experiences and stories are often the starting points for my books. For instance, while my grandmother never set foot in America – she had a sister and two aunts who lived there for much of their lives – and their stories about New York were her eyes. My mother has never been to Hollywood but spent her childhood in the movie theatre in Ballina, County Mayo – escaping the drudgery of small time life in rural Ireland.
I loved these women and their stories about the emigrant experience and that makes me want to write about it – so – I visit the places they never went to, expand on their stories and make them real again through my fiction.
History is about interpreting facts but what makes historical fiction real is the connection of emotion; the fact that while everything changes, on some level, people stay the same. How the past one-hundred years have changed the emotional landscapes of women’s lives is fascinating to me. Every piece of history I explore, from the way the woman who built Guggenheim’s art collection, Hilla Rebay has been, more or less, written out of history – to the plight of the Japanese women who were interned in camps during WW2 – is put through the prism of what it means to be a woman today.
History is in us - it lives in the everyday. When I cook my grandmother’s soda bread it is a celebration of our history; I keep her with me through continuing our shared experiences but in doing so I am keeping alive a chain that reaches back to my great-grandmother – and the generations of woman who baked bread before her. When I walked into La Placita Church in Los Angeles with its incense and wooden pews it smelt the same as my local, small church in Ireland. The colors were gaudier, brighter – but the feeling of peace and the passion for The Blessed Virgin were the same.
I felt at home and lit a candle for my granny.
That is what history is to me – simply an interesting version of today. Stepping into the past should be as easy as stepping into another room.
I am lucky that my mother now lives in the cottage in Ireland that she grew up in, so I write there every day surrounded by my grandmother’s old pictures and belongings. Come and join me on my Facebook page to learn more about my writing routines and if you are interested in finding out the background to Land of Dreams research my work you can visit my Pinterest Inspirations board or website. Looking forward to sharing with you.