Yesterday, I was at my daughter’s school. One of her teachers nicely asked about my forthcoming book. Here’s what I said: “The book is set in the 14th century – the Middle Ages – it’s about a former nun who has lived in secret for 10 years. Then her son is killed, and she goes on a terrible journey to find out the truth about her life, and prove that her son’s life mattered.”

The teacher looked at me and cocked her head to the side. “That’s so different,” she said. “I thought since you work in business, you’d write a techno-thriller or something like that. Why this story?”

It’s a great question.

Writing on the Train

For several years, I commuted from my home in Olympia to Seattle. I rode the commuter train an hour each way. I worked a demanding job in high-tech with some very smart people. Lots of email, many hours on spreadsheets and business plans. Your busy job in today’s world is probably pretty similar!

But for an hour a day on the train each way, each day, I had time to think.

And I started thinking about what really matters.

Mothers. Children. Friends. Love. Our connection to each other. Our legacy in our children. Mother's Love

I wanted to write a story about these things. Not about software, or iPads, or spreadsheets. I didn’t want to write about the ephemera of modern life — even though I love books like The Future of Us.

I wanted to focus the lens tighter. What happens when you strip life down to its essentials?

And I remembered a bit of history from the 14th century. Children died in a tragic house fire in a distant village. The families were in such agony that they took their dead children across England to the King’s throne to demand justice!

I could imagine their pain. The torture of losing your child. Their angry search for answers.

Children. Families. Loyalties divided in a village.

In the Middle Ages, there was no Facebook to distract, no email, no websites. Just the realities of what really matters.

So I started writing, in the early hours, as my train wended its way through the misty countryside.

The story became about one woman’s story. One mother loving her child. One tragedy. One relentless urge to find answers.

Sinful Folk - story

I wrote my book Sinful Folk because I wanted to think deeply about children, mothers, families, and loyalty. How far would a mother go to protect her child’s memory?

The character of Mear showed me what strength is hidden in the most unlikely heroines. She showed me how strong a mother can be. What power can be concealed in silence. She showed me what really matters.

Thanks for asking!