Doug Sugano first introduced me to Chaucer and to literature of the medieval period. Doug Sugano is in many ways directly responsible for the interest I have today in medieval literature and drama. In fact, I quote directly from Doug’s version of the “N-Town” dramas in my new novel Sinful Folk, as a way of acknowledging that influence and that debt. Doug’s passion for medieval drama has been a part of my writing life for the past twenty years, and I have continued to read Chaucer, write about medieval characters and find meaning in these ancient texts due to Doug’s early introduction.
Later, in the 1990s, I studied medieval literature under noted scholar Richard Emmerson. And as I read Chaucer, I came across a bit of history from the 14th century. Children died in a tragic house fire in a distant village. The families were in such agony that they took their dead children across England to the King’s throne to demand justice. The same night I read of this incident, I couldn’t sleep – I stayed up and wrote a rapid beginning to the story.
But then I put the story on a shelf for nearly ten years. Then, one day, as I was watching my children playing, I thought of the agony of child-loss, and the pain I would feel if one of my children was lost. I wondered how far a mother would go to protect her child’s memory.
So in 2007, I suddenly started writing the book again and my writing rapidly focused on one woman’s story. One mother loving her child. One tragedy. One relentless urge to find answers. I began to think deeply about children, mothers, families, and loyalty.
I picked my old pages back up and suddenly I was haunted by the character of Miriam/Mear – I almost felt that she was a ghost who wanted her story to be told, and I was impelled to tell the truth of her life.
By the time I finished the first draft, I was overwhelmed by the tenacity and perseverance of Mear – her life showed me what strength is hidden in the most unlikely heroines. She showed me how strong a woman can be. What power can be concealed in silence. Mear showed me the power of a mother’s love.
Ned Hayes currently lives in Olympia, WA, with his wife and two children. During his day job, he is a successful director of product teams at Intel, while writing novels in his spare time. Sinful Folk will be released January 2014 by Campanile Books and available in hardcover, as an e-book and as an unabridged audiobook.