Today I am speaking with Coco Ihle, whose book, SHE HAD TO KNOW, has just been published. What is your book about?
SHE HAD TO KNOW has an autobiographical element to it and deals with two long lost sisters who reunite and nearly lose their lives searching for a hidden treasure and a murderer in a Scottish castle.
How long had the idea of your book been developing before you began to write the story?
I was a product of foster care and adoption, so my early life was spent fantasizing about finding my birth family with the thought of writing a book one day involving my search. It wasn’t until my early thirties that my Scottish roots were uncovered and a tiny seed was planted. In my fifties, one of my sisters was located and the book started forming in my mind. What better story to write than a mystery?
How much of yourself is hidden in the main characters of this book?
SHE HAD TO KNOW has two protagonists, the two sisters. I found it interesting that both sisters in the book have multiple characteristics of my sister and me. That is to say, one isn’t me and the other my sister, my fictional characters have traits that both my sister and I have, plus some. It just worked out that way. Does that make sense?
Yes, actually. Tell me, did you do any research for this book?
Yes, a great deal. Luckily, when I found out about my Scottish heritage years earlier, I joined a local Scottish society and met many Scots who shared with me stories of their lives and culture. My son and I joined the society’s bagpipe band and traveled to Scotland to order our bagpipes and kilts and to discover more about my homeland. To make things interesting, we stayed in several castles all over Britain. That’s when I knew one sister in my book would own a castle hotel. More trips were necessary for fact finding, and many hours of speaking with my wonderful Scottish friends helped me get the details down. I also used books and pamphlets that I gathered on my travels along with the phone and, toward the end, the internet. What can I say, I love research.
What challenges did you face when you wrote this book?
In part of the book I deal with reuniting the sisters. I already knew how I felt, but I needed to find out how my sister dealt with her questions of not knowing where she came from or why she was given up; that sort of thing. The questions were difficult to ask and the answers were tough to put on paper, because I wanted to emphasize the joy of the sister’s reunion, not dwell on the sadness of our lost childhood together. In the end, I left out much of the negative, though in the future, I may touch on more of the problems the sisters faced.
Another challenge for me was in simplifying the Scottish dialect so that everyone could understand it. I tried to be consistent with it so the reader would get into the cadence of the characters. I thought adding a glossary might help, too.
Do you think writing this book changed your life? If so, how?
Absolutely. In a couple of ways. My sister and I talked in detail about our lives before we met, and how we felt about all the things that happened and didn’t happen through the years. Our talks created a stronger bond between us.
Another way my life changed was, my adopted mother used to accuse me of starting projects and losing interest before finishing them. Well, I took that criticism to heart. I know she’s up there smiling down at me, because I finish projects now.
Do you prefer to write at a particular time of day?
Mornings are my favorite time, because my mind is fresh, but sometimes late at night when there are no distractions. Often, I’ll wake in the middle of the night with an idea or a phrase and have to write it down on a tablet I keep on my nightstand. And occasionally, I just have to get up and write that thought or idea in more detail.
Do you have a favorite snack food or beverage that you enjoy while you write?
Ha! That would be my famous cup of joe. I have a wonderful 16 oz. thermos mug that keeps my coffee hot, so I don’t have to get up so often for a refill. My right hand seems to be permanently crooked into the mug holding position. Just kidding. Occasionally, I like to munch on roasted almonds, too.
Why did you set your book to begin in 1985?
I’ve always been told to “write what you know.” Since my own search was done primarily before computers, I wanted to write my story before that era. As I continue to search for two more siblings, I’m finding the computer age has only complicated matters. Often, too much information can be as much of a hindrance as not enough. Also, found information is often incorrect, which can lead to wasted time and effort. If it hadn’t been for the Alma Society, which helps in family searches, I may have given up years ago.
What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
When I read a story, I want to be swept into it and escape from my life issues and just be entertained. I hope my readers will feel that way with my book. I also hope, people will be reinforced in their thinking that persistence is a virtue which almost always has its rewards. It certainly has in my life.
What do you like to read?
Mostly mysteries since that’s what I like to write, and I’m lucky to know some very excellent writers in my genre through conferences, conventions and listserves. Memoirs are another area I like and in which I have written. And there are some wonderful YA authors out there whose work in fantasy I enjoy. But, I like thrillers, too. Oh, dear, I just love to read and if it is well written, I’ll read just about anything that isn’t too violent or graphic.
Do you have a saying or motto for your life and/or as a writer?
Funny you should ask. My favorite is: “Aspire to inspire before you expire.” Isn’t that great?
I’ll say. Thank you, Coco, for taking the time to speak with me today.
Click here to read the first chapter of: She Had to Know
Click here to read an excerpt of: She Had to Know