How I came to write Keeper of the Light
In 1990, my family and I took a car camping trip to New York, heading up through Michigan into Canada and back down into the U.S. The first two nights we stayed at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, on the edge of Lake Superior. At the visitor's center there, I heard a story about the wreck of the Elma. It stuck in my mind as a possible story because a small child had been on board and was rescued with the rest of the crew. Any story with a child was fair game for my writer's imagination. But four years went by, and I could never figure a way to use the story.
In 1994, after I'd finished Deeper Song I was looking around for another novel to write. Again my family took a trip to Lake Superior--I thought I could somehow write about a girl and a shipwreck. But when I started reading about life aboard a ship it was too full of men and men's concerns for my taste. I wanted to write about women.
Discouraged, one afternoon I took a walk on the shore with my family. When walking on the beach got difficult they climbed the bluff. (Though I'm afraid of heights, my kids and my husband are all part mountain goat!) I was determined not to be left behind, so I climbed up after them. There we found a little used path through the woods and followed it, coming out at the Au Sable Point Lighthouse. Immediately I fell in love with the red brick keeper's house, the little outbuildings, and the tall white lighthouse watching over the shore and lake. I wanted to live there. Of course I couldn't live there for real, so the next best thing was to write about it. "This is where my story takes place," I thought. And it was.