Sunday, May 15, 2022

It Began With A Song



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Let’s do an experiment. Let’s see how you like the first sentence of this synopsis. Raise your hand if you are swooning with delight, and cannot wait to read it.

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke remains a mystery, but the women who descended from Eleanor Dare have long known that the truth lies in what she left behind: a message carved onto a large stone and the contents of her treasured commonplace book.

I knew it! I see everyone’s hands!


Wow.  IN THE LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE, The fabulous and brilliant Kimberly Brock has drawn on a story we all know and have all wondered about (right?), and has drawn on the (fictional) story of a young woman at the end of World War Two who gets the deed to an abandoned family home called Evertell.

(How totally hooked are you now? Yup, I see all your raised hands again.)

And today, Kimberly tells us how she has also drawn on…music.


Your Mother Called You Something Sweet
      By Kimberly Brock

When I began to imagine Eleanor’s Tale, the fable that has been passed down through sixteen generations of Eleanor Dare’s descendants, I knew the most important thing would be to tell a story that would have somehow mattered to each of the women in her line. 

I began with the scant few facts I knew of Eleanor herself, but I had to imagine so much for the women who followed her and as I wrote, the story became a patchwork of what might have been, what they hoped and dreamed for her, for themselves, for their own daughters. I was writing a story for a ghost, for all lost girls, leaving a trail of proverbial breadcrumbs that I hoped would help us all find our way home in one way or another.

That’s when I first heard a song that struck at the heart of the novel I’d worked on for almost six years. The title of the song was Fulton County Jane Doe. The artist was the incomparable Brandi Carlile.

If you’ve never heard the song, it was written for an unidentified woman, sadly given the placeholder name of Jane Doe. All her stories were lost. Even her name. If you know the history of the Dare Stones, the obscure and incredible history that connects my state of Georgia to the Lost Colony of Roanoke, then you know that the story engraved on the rocks found between 1937 and 1942 claim that Eleanor Dare died in a cave in Fulton County, Georgia, the county where I now live. Another woman whose name and stories have been lost to history, lost to Fulton County, Georgia. Until now. Could that be you, Eleanor? Could that be me, I wondered?


The parallels in this song’s story raised the hair on my head. I played it over and over again. I would drive and lose myself in the lyrics and melody. It haunted my dreams. I recognized a truth in these two very separate works of art that rang out like a declaration and it made me cry. She was here. She was here.

That simple fact was important enough that I spent years trying to capture it in this novel and here it was so beautifully encapsulated in a song. To me, it seems like a kind of message from something greater than myself, something in the ether that needs to be expressed about women’s stories, our value, our history and how love means we are never lost if we’ll name one another something sweet.

I listened to that song for inspiration, for confirmation, for sisterhood and because it spoke to everything I was trying to express in my own work, maybe in my own life. And I believe it made my novel stronger, more focused. I believe it was a gift to me in ways that Brandi Carlile could never have expected. She put a song into the world and it found me. It makes me hope that maybe that message will find others in the reading of The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare, and even this little essay. She was here. We were here. She had a name. She was loved.

Do you find inspiration in the work of other artists? Do you feel connections to a greater story in your own work?

HANK: Oh, what a wonderful question…and here is a link to that song again. Have you ever heard it? 

What do you say to Kimberly's question, Reds and readers?




Kimberly Brock is the bestselling author of The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare and The River Witch. She is the founder of Tinderbox Writers Workshop and has served as a guest lecturer for many regional and national writing workshops including at the Pat Conroy Literary Center. She lives near Atlanta with her husband and three children.







The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare

The fate of the world is often driven by the curiosity of a girl.

What happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke remains a mystery, but the women who descended from Eleanor Dare have long known that the truth lies in what she left behind: a message carved onto a large stone and the contents of her treasured commonplace book. Brought from England on Eleanor’s fateful voyage to the New World, her book was passed down through the fifteen generations of daughters who followed as they came of age. Thirteen-year-old Alice had been next in line to receive it, but her mother’s tragic death fractured the unbroken legacy and the Dare Stone and the shadowy history recorded in the book faded into memory. Or so Alice hoped.

In the waning days of World War II, Alice is a young widow and a mother herself when she is unexpectedly presented with her birthright: the deed to Evertell, her abandoned family home and the history she thought forgotten. Determined to sell the property and step into a future free of the past, Alice returns to Savannah with her own thirteen-year-old daughter, Penn, in tow. But when Penn’s curiosity over the lineage she never knew begins to unveil secrets from beneath every stone and bone and shell of the old house and Eleanor’s book is finally found, Alice is forced to reckon with the sacrifices made for love and the realities of their true inheritance as daughters of Eleanor Dare.

In this sweeping tale from award-winning author Kimberly Brock, the answers to a real-life mystery may be found in the pages of a story that was always waiting to be written.

62 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your new book, Kimberly . . . it sounds mysterious and intriguing and heartwarming and I can’t wait to read it.

    I’d never heard the song; it’s so moving. Thanks for the link, Hank . . . .

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    1. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 15, 2022 at 7:35 AM

      Yes, it is so profound how it affected her! It just shows you never know…

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    2. Thank you! I love sharing this song with people who haven't heard it and a little glimpse at the creative process behind the novel. Happy reading!

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  2. What an intriguing premise. Congrats on the new book.

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  3. A lovely song, and good for you for taking inspiration and linking the two stories! The book sounds fabulous.

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    1. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 15, 2022 at 7:37 AM

      And it really feels like no one could have thought of this but Kimberly, you know?

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    2. Thank you! I think stories find us when we need them. I feel very lucky, indeed!

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  4. Wow. Hank is absolutely right. I want to grab the book this minute and sink into its story. But the song was neat, too, and one I had never heard. What a profound truth: we're born with nothing and die with only a name. I'll think I'll have goosebumps all day.

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    1. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 15, 2022 at 7:38 AM

      Awwww it sounds like this is exactly the book for you! xxxx

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    2. Agree on the goosebumps! Happy reading!

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  5. KIMBERLY: Yes, that Brandi Carlile song was meant to be heard by you. Congratulations on your new book. My favourite singers (and songwriters) definitely tell moving stories in their songs.

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    1. Hank Phillippi RyanMay 15, 2022 at 7:39 AM

      Wow, Grace, that is so thought-provoking. To think that a song was meant to be heard by a certain person, even if the songwriter did not know that.. Love that!

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    2. I love this idea that our art is created for others as much as for ourselves and that it connects our hearts in ways we might never imagine. Happy reading...and listening! :)

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  6. Welcome Kimberly, the book sounds amazing! We vacationed for years in the Outer Banks of NC and I bet I saw the play in Manteo, The Lost Colony, a dozen times. I didn't know of the Georgia connection and can't wait to read this!

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    1. I love that you have this personal connection to the Outer Banks of NC and the outdoor drama. I'll have the honor of returning this June for Day Days in Manteo and another book event hosted by Nouvines Wine Bar and Downtown Books! I can't wait to stand on that shore again and think of Eleanor Dare.

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  7. Until today I had not thought of Virginia Dare since we learned she was the first baby born to Europeans in America, back in fourth or fifth grade. I had no idea the Lost Colony had anything to do with the Dares.

    And thanks for the links to Brandi Carlile's music! Broadened my horizons even more.

    Intriguing premise and plot lines, Kimberly!

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    1. I love bringing those memories to the surface and it's always a tender thing to see women reflect on Virginia...and then, her mother, Eleanor. And I hope you enjoy learning about the Dare Stones and the mystery surrounding them! Happy reading!

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    2. yes, it's one of those stories we heard..like, once.

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  8. Wow, your essay gave me goosebumps! What an intriguing tale.

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    1. There were so many moments that gave me goosebumps while writing this novel. I like to think we are telling something true at the heart of a story when that happens!

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    2. So agree! Those are magical moments.

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  9. Kimberly, this book had already caught my eye--the title and the cover alone were enough to say "READ THIS STORY." And now, for sure, it's been moved up the stack. This is my kind of story. I hadn't heard Brandi Carlisle's song, thanks for sharing it. I've read of other writer's who were inspired by particular songs--Louise Penny, for one.

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    1. I hope you love meeting Eleanor and all the Dare heirs! I love all of Brandi Carlile's must and every time I talk about it, I learn of other artists who find inspiration from music. It's really a celebration of expression, isn't it?

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    2. yes, so agree, the cover is incredible!

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  10. I find "where stories come from" to be endlessly fascinating. Thanks for sharing, Kimberly, and congratulations on the new book!

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  11. As a Fulton County native and long-time fan of Brandi Carlile, I am super intrigued by your story. I love history and mystery and cannot wait to read your book. Thank you for filling in the holes. I love hearing where stories come from.

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    1. I love this! Do a little Google search about the Dare Stones. I bet you'll be intrigued. Happy reading!

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    2. PS you might like to start with the author's note if you read the novel. :)

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  12. My comment must have disappeared. Oh well, congratulations on the book, Kimberly, I cannot wait to read it.

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    1. Thank you! Happy reading!! Start with the author's note at the end of the novel... :)

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  13. Oh, I love Brandi Carlile! How wonderful to find inspiration in such a great song. I also love mysteries based on historical events. I can't wait to read The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare. Congrats, Kimberly.

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    1. I had never heard that song before!

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    2. Thank you! I listen to Brandi's music on loop when I'm not writing. So easy to get lost in her gorgeous lyrics!

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  14. This book sounds fascinating. Family secrets, mother/daughter relationships, and what is written in that book??? One of the things that has always bugged me is how women are presented in school history books. Jane Long, Mother of Texas. Claimed to be the first white woman to give birth in Texas. Virginia Dare, first English child born in the new world. Betsy Ross, sewed a flag. No mention of their feats of survival, pioneering, and supporting the revolution. Just doing their womanly duties. Ack. I hope modern text books are better than that.

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    1. THAT is SUCH a fascinating thought! Chilling. And instructive.

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    2. You hit the nail on the head, Pat! Exactly what this book is really about. I hope you love it!

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  15. So interesting to learn where a writer's inspiration comes from, Kimberly. Congrats on this book -- and on persevering to work through the writing of it!

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    1. It's so much fun to see how happy she is, isn't it?

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    2. Thank you! I think some stories just won't let you go and I've been lucky to write this one.

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  16. Oh Kimberly, I can hardly wait to read this book! I agree with Flora, the title and cover design are so strong they probably would have pulled me in on their own. But the description and this post are so captivating that I am totally hooked.

    Thanks for the link to the song, too. I had not heard this one, but I am rarely unmoved by any of Brandi Carlile's work. I only became familiar with her during covid, meaning there's a whole body of amazing work I am just now discovering and enjoying..

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    1. I love how it draws on something we kind of knew about, and figured we knew..and then realized we actually didn't.

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    2. I've been listening to Brandi since very early days -- we lived in Seattle in the late 90's and early 2000's and when her music first came out, I was an instant fan. Happy reading! And I recommend flipping to the author's note at the back of the book to start. :)

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    3. Hank, that's exactly what first drew me in, the question of why some history is "lost" or "forgotten."

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  17. KIMBERLY: Welcome to Jungle Reds! I loved your novel and thank you again for the ARC! I loved it so much that I ordered copies for gifts. I was intrigued by the mystery of Virginia Dare and when I saw a drawing of Virginia Dare, I noticed that she looked like a childhood friend whose family was from Georgia. It's a coincidence. However, this childhood friend is from a multigenerational Deaf family. She looked like her Deaf mother, who was a Olympic athlete (yes, there is a Deaf Olympics). My theory is "what if Virginia Dare was Deaf and decided to live with Native Americans"? There were several Native American tribes who communicated in Sign Language. When I think about the mystery of the disappearance of the colony, I wonder what if some of the white settlers ran away to live with the Native Americans?

    Have I found inspiration from artists? Yes, I find myself getting ideas from Silent Films.

    Congratulations on your novel!

    Diana

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    1. I just stopped in my tacks. Ideas from silent films. Oh. My dear. That is so touching.

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    2. Hi! Thank you so much and I'm so happy you loved the book. The idea of silent films as inspiration is really intriguing!

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  18. I love these posts so full of interesting topics and rabbit holes to fall down. The lost colony of Roanoke is one of the most fascinating mysteries of history, and you taking the legacy left by Eleanor Dare in her descendants is so intriguing. As Alice " reckon(s) with the sacrifices made for love and the realities of their true inheritance as daughters of Eleanor Dare," I imagine that this story will have those reading it doing some reckoning with the legacy from their female descendants. I so enjoy a good link-to-the-past for our personal understanding story, and The Lost Book of Eleanor Dare sounds like an exceptional book in that sphere. I often think of the legacy that the Boone women through history have left me, the hard work, especially physical, that they endured to land me today in my seat of comfort. Congratualtions, Kimberly, on a book that is sure to resonate with many.

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    1. HA! Our exact goal here at Jungle Red! xxx We LOVE rabbit holes!

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    2. There were so many rabbit holes with this book, it's a wonder I ever made it back. The research was wonderful! I hope you love it!

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  19. Oh, and the Brandi Carlile song is so fabulous! Getting lost in the beauty of its lyrics is an easy thing to do. I'm posting a link here to the song with its lyrics so everyone can see just how beautiful and powerful they are. Also, the line you used to title your article, "your mother called you something sweet" is so heartbreaking in the song that I had to bow my head and close my eyes in prayer. Thank you for bringing me both a book and a song today, Kimberly. Here's the song with lyrics link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfboGOkq79Y

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  20. Reading the description of THE LOST BOOK OF ELEANOR DARE gave me that dang-kick-myself feeling when I see an amazing premise that I didn't think of first. What an irresistible hook for a story! And I love the idea of the lost girls of history - because it didn't take a mysterious vanishing colony for most women's stories to be lost. Just not caring and not counting in men's history.

    Oh, and as for songs, yes; the wonderful singer/songwriter Bill Deasy's album Good Day No Rain was the virtual soundtrack for my novel I SHALL NOT WANT. There were several scenes that were shaped by images from his music.

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    1. TOALLY AGREE. What a great idea! And Julia, I hope you will write about that sometime!

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    2. Bill Deasy's music is fantastic! I agree with Hank and hope you'll write about that sometime. As for women's history being lost, it's so true. But it's also very cleverly passed down in oral traditions, art, food, heirlooms, etc. I wrote this book for all those lost stories and curious girls. I hope you love it.

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  21. I have the book and can't wait to read it-our online book club has Kimberly with us in June! I have enjoyed many of her virtual events! So intriguing. Brandi is a great singer/songwriter-from our great city of Seattle.

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  22. My comment is above (about our book club having Kimberly; Brandi being a great singer/ songwriter from our great city of Seattle)-not sure why my name was not included-Susie Baldwin.

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