Like many of my novel ideas, the one for The Last Time I saw Her marinated in my brain for a long time, like forty years. I didn’t know I wanted to write a novel precisely for that long but I’ve always had a fantasy around something that happened to me the summer between graduating high school and going to college.
I worked as a counselor at a Girl Scout camp in West Virginia and I fell in love. It’s probably very common and it didn’t end well- also very routine. But, I hoped for years after that I would meet up again with the object of my affection and well, we could create an alternate ending.
In the mid-80s, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a couple of southern women’s music festivals. I think the idea that turned into this novel may have occurred to me then as well since my long ago love was from West Virginia and it didn’t seem too far of a stretch to imagine her showing up at women’s music festival in Georgia
I write historical romance novels as well as contemporary romances. Conventional wisdom says that it’s not a real historical novel unless you didn’t live in the time frame you’re writing about. I guess I’d agree with that definition. Except… with the pace of change these days, I tend to think younger readers would view the 1980s as history. There were no cell phones for instance, no internet at least for the general public. In retrospect, it seemed quaint: answering machines, phone books, research had to be done in a library or a museum. I can even remember the first time I used email and the first time I used a computer, they seemed like miracles. If you are younger than a baby boomer like me, the 1980s are history.
The Last Time I Saw Her is a combination of history and autobiography. Now that I’m an actual romance novelist I can write an actual reunion-plot novel about what happened plus I can write about what I wanted to happen. I get to rewrite my own history which we would all like to do one way or another. Call it novelistic wish fulfillment. The happy ending I fantasized so much about becomes reality, at least in a novel.
My narrator or my alter ego if you like is a festival volunteer as is her old love interest. The music festival brings them back together after a gap of many years. Imagine how shocking that would be in real life. It’s not totally out of the realm of possibility I figured- just a really long shot. And then, well, angst happens, secrets come out and all is eventually resolved for the requisite HEA. Amidst all the earnest conversations and seduction, I am able to have a great deal of fun with lesbians in general and lesbians at a music festival. Good times.