A Love Letter to Libraries

… from Riskies guest blogger Tessa McDermid

Thank you, Riskies, for having me as a guest! I love visiting the Risky Regencies and keeping up with the history, fashion, intrigues, and books of the Regency period. This time period is still my first love and one of these days, I plan to revise/complete a couple ideas I have for a Regency book. For now, I’m going to read as many as I can for pleasure.

I first started reading Regencies in high school when I found Georgette Heyer books in the Plantation, Florida Public Library. Her books had such lovely covers and even lovelier stories. I could hardly wait to check out my next batch of books each week and see what adventures awaited her heroines, sometimes while they were visiting a lending library.

I love libraries and can’t imagine my life without them. Two years ago, I was asked to speak at a small area library during their February “Love a Library Month” celebration. The librarian thought it would be fun to have a romance author share about her writing and books. As I was putting my ideas together, I realized how much libraries have meant to me over the years. That day, I led the listeners on a tour of the libraries in my life and how those magical buildings, filled with books and possibilities, led to me writing my own books.

Since then, I’ve been researching the libraries I remembered, putting facts to my memories. I’ve had so much fun and talked with so many helpful, friendly librarians. My first memory is a big white house in Des Moines, Iowa. My mom would take my siblings and I to the library, pulling the youngest ones in our red wagon. We would climb to the top of the stairs and listen to Story Time before checking out our own books.

We moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, while I was in elementary school. Our local library was a stone Carnegie Library. Every time we went to the library, we walked up the tall steps, which I discovered was to symbolize a person’s elevation by learning. I know I learned so much going into that building. That’s where I first found out that writers were simply people who put stories together and sent them out to magazines. (And I don’t mean the process is simple – only that writers weren’t magical people who lived in magical writing places. I could someday be a writer!).

Independence, Missouri. Plantation, Florida. Chicago, Illinois. All of these cities provided me with hours of reading pleasure through their public libraries. There’s just something about the smell of the books, the shelves and shelves of adventure and romance and excitement. I never knew what might be found in the pages of a book and once I started to write my own stories, I found ideas and details in the nonfiction sections.

I discovered writing magazines in the stacks at Kansas University while I waited for my husband to finish his classes. I also found books on fashion through the ages, foods, home decorations. All giving me details for the lives of my heroines and heroes. The Lawrence Kansas Public Library had an author, Sara Paretsky, share about her writing process one evening and I found a writer’s group. I’m so excited that this April, I get to be the speaker at the same library for the beginning of National Library Week!

Our next stop in our married life was the library in Atchison, Kansas. This is where I really started to write toward publication. My first manuscript – and one I hope to revise sometime in the future – began during the Civil War time period in Kansas. My love of England came into play here, with the second generation daughter being married off to a lord in England. She was wealthy, he needed the money to save his ancestral home. Sadly, sagas weren’t doing well then and I tucked it away after several positive rejections (and, yes, that may seem like an oxymoron but the comments about my writing kept me going).

Right now, I’m writing what would be considered contemporaries, at least by Risky Regencies standards. My last book, FAMILY STORIES, started during the 1920s in the United States, the love story of a couple who were together for 75 years. Again I brought in my love of England, this time by having one of the daughters travel there. And I bring in libraries, too – her first romantic interest is the young man who works in the library near their summer cottage. The descriptions of the place were based on the small library in Lamoni, Iowa, where I worked for a few memorable nights – I imagined too many things happening while I was alone in the building and I had to clean the pet gerbil cage!

My new Harlequin, WEDDINGS IN THE FAMILY, is about a couple struggling with their relationship after their daughter gets married. I just realized I don’t think I have any England connection in this one! I do have a writer as one of the main characters, so she would have to visit a library. And no matter what I write or where I live, libraries will always be a major part of my life!

What stories do you have about libraries? I’ll choose one lucky person from those who share to receive a copy of my new book.

Tessa McDermid will speak about her love of libraries at the Lawrence KS Public Library on Monday, April 13, at 7 p.m. Check their website for more details. Future visits at other libraries will be listed on her website – www.tessamcdermid.com

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