Kristina McMorris describes herself as the accidental author.
The New York Times best-selling author will share her journey at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Carmel Clay Public Library.
“I never planned to be a creative writer,” McMorris said. “My grandparents’ courtship letters ended up changing all of that. My journey as an event planner, a PR director, a weekly TV host and a mom full-time and stumbling across their letters completely changed the course of my life.”
The letters inspired McMorris’ debut novel, “Letters from Home,” in 2011.
“I like to call it ,‘The Notebook’ meeting ‘Saving Private Ryan,’” McMorris said.
McMorris, based in Oregon, was creating a family cookbook of her grandmother’s recipes and decided to include a biography of her grandmother.
“She shared all kinds of things no one has heard before,” McMorris said. “I learned she and my late grandfather only dated twice during World War II and exchanged letters the entire time. On a leave from the Navy, he proposed to her, and they were married (for) 50 years before he passed away.”
McMorris said she usually is inspired by a nugget of history to write a fictional story around. She will discuss the photograph that inspired her most recent novel, “Sold on a Monday.” The newspaper photograph is of a sign that reads, “4 children for sale inquire within” on a Chicago apartment stoop that was published in the Valparaiso newspaper in 1948.
“As a mother, it stunned me,” McMorris said. “I assumed it was during the Great Depression and was shocked to find out it was in the 1940s, which we think of as prosperous times after World War II. It haunted me.”
McMorris said the mother sold one of her daughters for $2 to a farmer and his wife.
“She agreed because she wanted bingo money,” McMorris said. “Her little brother started crying and they said, ‘Fine, we’ll take him, too, for free.’”
The brother and sister were abused and used as forced labor.
In her book, she recasts the story as happening in the 1930s.
“I couldn’t bring myself to write it from the perspective of the children,” she said. “I found a single sentence that said some family members believe the photo was staged and the mother was paid.”
McMorris took that nugget and crafted the story from the reporter’s perspective.
“With good intentions, he takes the photograph that displays the hardships of American families,” McMorris said. “It catapults his career but has devastating consequences for everyone involved.”
For more, kristinamcmorris.com.