Posts Tagged 'Lisa Girolami'

The story behind the 45th Parallel

By Lisa Girolami

My mother was born in Unalaska during the WWII, ending up in Oregon after her father, a physician and officer in the Navy, finished his service to our country. The Pacific Northwest never left her soul and she spent most of her life living on its westernmost edge.

It was while she lived in Oregon, attending high school in Eugene, that she and a friend pedaled their bicycles to the beach town of Lincoln City one summer. It was 1953 and the two teenagers rode 124 miles to the ocean, throwing their bikes over guardrails when the sun set and sleeping in the soft grass along the highway at night.

It’s amazing to me that my grandparents let her go on this unusual exploit, not because they were afraid that the roads were filled with serial killers and criminals, it was a much different time then, but because it wasn’t standard practice for two girls to ride bikes that far and back, to be solely on their own, and create an adventure that was so independently and uniquely theirs.

My mom told me she fell in love with Lincoln City on that trip and went back, via car, as often as she could. And when she, at the young age of forty-seven and now living in southern California, lost my father to cancer, she took the savings he left and moved her life to that very same town she had sought out in her one big, teen adventure.

I was with her when she first shopped for houses. We flew there from Southern California and met with a realtor that drove us up and down the coast. I was highly protective of her, after losing my dad, and struggled to hide the immense ache in my heart when she’d ask me to teach her how to pump gas or figure out the VCR. She had relied heavily on my father all those years and while her life started out with a shimmering streak of adventurousness, marriage and children certainly dulled the shine, until she found herself living as the housewife she once told me she never envisioned while envying my career and work.

So when she decided to move up north, I knew it was her chance for an adventure all her own and I enthusiastically helped her look for the perfect place to start her new journey.

It came in the form of a piece of land, in the hills overlooking the ocean, in Neskowin, Oregon.Mom Neskowin Oregon

Now that dad was gone and the kids were grown and she didn’t have to tend to anyone else, I wanted to help her find out who she was and what she wanted, just for herself.

With the help of our cousins, she designed and built a beautiful house, standing proud against the Oregon mist, with a 180-degree view up and down the rocky coast.

This was her new quest, to embark on the expedition that would reconnect Kris with the Kris she remembered from her youth.

I visited there often, less to get away from my hectic career and more to check in on her, but I missed her as well. We talked long distance at least three times a week but I would long for the nights at her beach house where we’d stay up late drinking Earl Grey tea, playing cards and laughing about silly things. We loved going to the only movie house in town that showed only one movie, and beachcombing for agates so early in the morning that our windbreakers would be dripping from the ocean’s foggy mist.

So I fell in love with Lincoln City, just as she had, and when, on one of my first trips there, I saw a particular highway sign on the outskirts of town, a seed of a book idea sprouted in my head.

P1060616Lincoln City stands on the 45th parallel. It is woefully neglect in the merits of a landmark when you compare it to a Gettysburg battle or a national park, but it nevertheless intrigued me. The 45th parallel meant that Lincoln City, as well as all the other places that shared the same latitudinal address, was exactly halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. So the frick what? Being halfway between two more notable places didn’t make Lincoln City special. It was just a highway sign that someone in the department of transportation or the local Chamber of Commerce had posted as a place of interest. But someone thought it was interesting enough to boast its existence.

That’s where my author brain kicked in and the two words that always sink into my cerebral matter, like water parasites picked up in river swim while trekking through Zimbabwe, refusing to shake themselves loose, those two words that come to me more often than not, wormed into my head.

What if?

What if the people of this little beach enclave suffered from a small town Napoleon complex? What if a quaint little town, that served saltwater taffy and beach kites and seashell souvenirs to tourists, wasn’t really charming at all and the people were as habitually odd as the ‘small town mentality’ stereotype insinuates? What if a woman returns to the town her recently deceased mother adopted, only to find that things as strange as the town folk she encounters, were happening to her?

That was how my latest novel was born. The bug that was The 45th Parallel, swam around my brain with other “what if” organisms and waited, developing slowly over a number of years, until the idea had fully reached maturity and I was ready to purge myself of the growth.

Coming out this month, the printed offering is my homage to a town that brought my mom, and me, a lot of joy in the last few decades of her life. Parts of the story are similar to a person, or four or five, who my mother would tell me about or a town rumor she’d heard, while other parts are entirely fictionalized.45th Parallel cover

The small town essence thrives in the novel, as well as the real town, though at times I have strengthened its literary concentration. That’s because there’s something so interesting about the dynamics of people who circulate among an American hamlet such as this, listening to gossip, forming polarized opinions, and generally practicing the tradition of highly busy bodied meddling.

It was a joy to write The 45th Parallel because I could revisit the time I spent with my mom and have a little fun with the characters that were from memory as well as imagination.

I can still smell the flowery fragrance of Earl Grey tea and feel the grits of sand in my beachcombing shoes. And I still see her smiling at me from over a hand of Canasta cards.

The 45th Parallel isn’t the kind of tribute one usually makes to their mother or the town she called home, but it represents a unique adventure in a peculiar town – the same town where my mom, having lost my dad, found herself on her own again to create an adventure that was independently and distinctively hers.






My new y/a novel, Lake Thirteen, Lake Thirteen 300 DPIwas inspired by a trip to an old cemetery one night at the Bold Strokes retreat in August, 2011. The retreat was an amazing time, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself…but as far as I know, I’m the only person who went who came away with a book idea.

On the way up the mountain where the lodge was located was another road marked as Cemetery Road. One of the first nights there, Lisa Girolami and the infamous Carsen Taite gathered up a gang to go ghost-hunting in the cemetery there and so, equipped with recording devices, they, myself, Trinity Tam and Nell Stark and several others departed for the cemetery. It was a perfect night for ghost hunting–the sky was filled with clouds so there was that sense of true dark–and I think it was our second night there; I could be wrong. Anyway, we found the cemetery–which was truly old. When I got out, I walked immediately to a grave with the headstone ALBERT LINCOLN 1892-1908. My immediate thought, which I spoke out loud, was “How terribly sad, he was only sixteen.” His grave rested next to his parents’; his mother was born in 1866 and lived to 1965; to which I added, “poor woman, she outlived her son by 59 years.” I stood there for a while, feeling this overwhelming sense of sadness, before we began moving around in the cemetery, looking for paranormal activity.

There were American flags everywhere, planted, one would assume, by the local VA on the graves of veterans. There was no wind, and there was a mist rising up from the ground. We were all gathered around a large tombstone when suddenly Trinity called my attention–and everyone else’s–to a grave behind us and far to our left. The flag on this grave was moving back and forth; yet all the other flags in the cemetery were still. There was no wind, none whatsoever. We all walked over to this grave, and it was about this time I noticed that I was feeling cold–I’d been cold since getting out of the car, but it was getting colder. The flag continued waving even after we got to it–and we were all standing at various places around the grave–and there was no wind; no reason for the flag to be waving at all.

I was drawn back to Albert’s grave again from here, and it was around now that I realized that not only was I cold, I was only cold from behind; in other words, my back and the back of my legs were cold, but there wasn’t any kind of wind. I asked Trinity if she, too, were cold, and she wasn’t–no one else was; they all thought it was muggy and sticky. At this point, all the hair on my arms stood up, and I had goose bumps like I’ve never seen before–and my back was getting colder.

While we were at Albert’s grave, several people heard a strange growling behind us (I didn’t hear it) and the majority of the group went investigating, leaving Trinity and myself behind. While we watched them, I asked Trinity to feel the back of my shorts and my shirt–and she confirmed they were cold.

Throughout this entire experience I continued feeling incredibly sad. Later, when the others rejoined us, Lisa felt the back of my shirt between my shoulder blades, and she, too, confirmed my shirt was cold.

Lisa said a prayer, since we were departing, and as she said the words, I got incredibly cold, this time all over. All the hair on my body stood up–head, arms, legs–and then as suddenly as it had come over me, it was gone–and I felt the muggy stickiness everyone else was experiencing.

As we drove back up to the lodge, I kept think about Albert and how he died. And later that night, alone in my room in a different cabin a little further down the mountain from the lodge, listening to the wind moan through the forest, the story started coming to me.

And that’s where the story of my new novel Lake Thirteen came from. I’ve been really pleased with the response to it so far…and now, when I have some free time, I might actually try to find out what really did happen to Albert.


Bold Strokes Books author Lisa Girolami doesn’t let anything get in the way when she’s marketing her latest novel, Cut to the Chase.

Seaside with Girolami

Join me as I catch up with Bold Strokes Books author, Lisa Girolami and learn about her latest projects.

Vlogging the Vlogger

While in the midst of vlogging with others, I was ambushed by some of my favorite authors: Trinity Tam, Rachel Spangler, Lisa Girolami, and Lynda Sandoval.

Premature Creative Syndrome

Lisa Girolami

Carsen Taite recently blogged about a certain illness. This malady attaches to the brain right around the time she’s trying to finish a manuscript and some perverse set of synapses and other brain firings cause her to begin contemplating her next novel. This of course, blocks the flow of the current novel and wreaks havoc on her creative process, not to mention her completion tasks.  While this syndrome isn’t life threatening by any means, it is considered a threat to edit goals. I believe the technical term is: deadline killer.

I, too, am afflicted by Premature Creative Syndrome. And I struggle with that same devious pathological cognitive condition. It’s current outbreak happened the other night. And this time it was a case of premature onset of PCS.  Rather than striking at the end of work on a manuscript, I contracted the illness at the beginning of my novel. While writing novel #5, I lay awake last night and felt my synapses firing in strange ways. OK, maybe there’s no empirical data that proves that synapses are related to higher thinking, but I swear that that’s what was happening and I felt it in the right side of my brain, so there.

Anyway, as I lay there thinking about the first chapters I’d written of novel #5 , I jumped to planning novel #6.  How would the story start? Where would the story start? Sheesh. It was 2:30 am and I was pondering how to write a novel that I shouldn’t be spending brain time on for quite a while.

Novel #6  happens to be an adaptation from a screenplay treatment I once pitched to the movie studios. No, I hadn’t had a shot of whiskey that night nor had I become frustrated at my progress on novel #5.  The thoughts just…came. A stream of what I thought was brilliant consciousness (hey, it was 2:30 after all) flooded my head. It spoke like I was reading it from some already written manuscript, not from the years-old treatment which is a cut and dry outline, but from a fresh and lively character’s POV.

 At that point, I knew if I fell asleep, the next morning would bring a faint, foggy, and frustrating memory; one that would tease the peripheries of my recall faculties, dimly dancing just out of reach, so I got out of bed (Susan asked what the heck I was doing but has come to understand insanities) and I turned my laptop back on to write it all down. Naturally, I then had to go into my study to find the treatment from long ago (we’re talking 1992) and flip through the pages.

By close to 3:30 am, this disorder had run its course, my mind had calmed down, and I was able to go back to bed.

So here’s my question. When stricken with this illness, do we take some kind of pill that can suppress precipitative musings or do we just succumb to it’s feverish doggedness? 

One camp may recommend the former, for deadlines prevail and first things first. But those who prescribe to the latter may argue that any and all creative thought should not be quashed regardless of when said thoughts  occur. I mean, heck, it may never come back! Like Jackie Robinson said, “Above anything else, I hate to lose a new idea.” OK, maybe he stopped at “lose” but he could have been talking about a cool story concept.

There are no PCS support meetings. There are no PCS self-help books in Barnes and Noble.  

And still, I know I have to live with PCS and just hope its symptoms become precious sources of creation and productivity.

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