EL Alum’ Update: Ned Hayes, ’90, and his novel Sinful Folk


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s