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Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Story Behind the Story

Writers are always asked, "What sparked your story?" or "What's made you write this story?"

Chapel Springs Survival was based on our eldest son, who got himself m 21st Century "mail-order bride" from Columbia. The novel varied drastically from his actual story. Our daughter-in-law is the best that ever happened to him.

When I had turned in that book to my publisher, I asked God, "What now?"

Write your story.

But mine wasn’t fraught with conflict. Well, there was some, but not the kind that carries a work of fiction. Still, the idea would leave me alone. My story happened like this:

On a hot July morning while sipping a cup of coffee, I opened my email. Nothing breath-taking about that, except on that particular day, I was asked a question that irrevocably changed my life: "Are you the Ane Mulligan looking for your birthmother, Elsie Vauna Mullvain?"

It yanked the breath right out me. I'd always known I was adopted. From the day mom and dad brought me home at three months old, they told me I was a chosen baby. 

My childhood was idyllic…well, maybe not for my parents, given the fact I was a barely-contained firecracker. But for me, it was great. Born in January 1947 in Southern California, I truly was a child of the fifties, when Cokes were a nickel and roller skates had keys. 

I can't say I was never curious about my birth parents; I was. For one thing, I didn't look like anyone. I became a people watcher, always wondering.

In 1998, I received a letter from my dad. It was the kind of stock paper used for official court documents. Premonition made my heart pound. I took a deep breath, and with trembling hands, I slowly slid it from the envelope. A sticky-note was adhered to the outside of the folder. "I don't know if you want this or not. Love, Dad."

That was all. I peeled off the yellow sticky and caught my breath as I read:

The adoption of Roberta Ann Mullvain

Though I'd never seen nor heard that name before, I knew it was mine. And suddenly I wasn't me any more. 

But who was I?

I opened the blue folder and quickly scanned its pages, until I saw it - my mother's name; Elsie V. Mullvain. Countless emotions whirled. Scenarios played out and were cast aside. I truly didn't know how I felt or should feel. For a word merchant, I was an empty page. I refolded the papers, and slid them in the envelope.

Another year passed, and I'd reached an age where changes were taking place that I wasn't so happy about. After all, who wants wrinkles and triceps that continued to goodbye for a full two minutes after you'd left? I needed a place to lay the blame for the havoc gravity was playing on my body. When I brushed my hair, I found myself staring into the mirror, my hand pausing it in its work, wondering how did my mother age? Did I look like her? I had a million questions and no one to ask. I decided it was time to search for Elsie. 

In March of 1999, I received a phone call as a result of my search. The woman said she had an Aunt Elsie Vauna Mullvain, and she would forward my letter to her. However, this cousin cautioned, when she'd told Elsie about my letter, her aunt said when she was young, she'd let a friend use her name. 

That sent me to the state of Confusion
Was that true? Or was she lying to protect herself? In truth, it made no sense. Back in the 1940s, a person's good name meant everything to them. I was left to wonder if my search had ended in success, or was this only step two? I waited. A month later, I received a letter from Elsie and with it, more of her story. 

While she told me about her situation back then, which remarkably matched my earlier fantasies, she did not want a relationship with me. I understood and honored that. My only other communication was to send her flowers on her birthday that year. The card merely said, "Thank you." 

I didn't contact her again. Although I was saddened a bit, I never knew her, so the loss wasn't as hard as it could have been. After all, I had no mental picture of her; she was still faceless to me. I never got a sense of her personality from her letter. Maybe it was strength of will, but I closed that door.

However, through the cousin who had called me I learned I had sisters. While I had a loving relationship with my adopted brother, I'd always wanted a sister and now I had several. I prayed and hoped one day I could find them. However, with no names, I had no way to search for them. I relinquished the dream into God's hands. It was never out of my mind, though.  

On July 18th, 2009, I got an email from a woman named Linda, asking that breath-taking question. Linda connected me with my birth sisters. The moment I met four of them in Seattle, they welcomed me with open arms and open hearts. One sister told me I'd spent a lifetime lost and finally I’d come home.

Debby Jo’s words “come home” resonated in my heart long after I returned to Atlanta, and I knew I would one day write this story. Home to Chapel Springs is that book.

A homeless author, a theatre ghost, and a heartbroken daughter ~ there’s trouble in Chapel Springs

There’s always someone new in Chapel Springs, either coming home or stirring up trouble. Bestselling author Carin Jardine’s latest book is a flop. Homeless and broke, she and her little boy have no choice but to retreat to the house she inherited from her nana in Chapel Springs—the house that’s been gutted. Then, a stranger knocks on her door. One that will change the course of her life. With one of her daughters in love with the wrong boy, a theatre rumored to be haunted, and Howie Newlander and Mayor Riley go head-to-head in a hot election, Claire gets caught in the middle.

Do you have a story that needs to be a book?



  1. wowee!!! Ane, what a story!! truth truly is stranger than fiction, isn't it! i read this with particular interest—in my last story, my main character wasn't adopted, but neither was she raised by her birth parents. imagine at the age of fifty, finding her birth certificate!!
    i've wanted to read your stories, and you know how the TBR pile can be!! your chapel springs story has now become a must read, and soon!!!
    so happy for you that you were able to connect with your sisters!

  2. Thanks you, Robin! Your character's story was close to mine. I was actually older when I found mine. :)

  3. What a great story! So happy that you were able to connect with your sisters.

  4. Thanks, Debbie. It was one of the greatest days of my life!

  5. I am attracted to your story. Your story reminds me of my mother.

    1. Thank you. Did your mother get to meet her family?


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