She describes herself as the accidental author, and up to about 10 years ago, she was more of a movie buff than a reader, or even a creative writer. “The fact that I’m an author today shows me that anyone who wakes up and says they want to write a book can do it,” said Kristina McMorris. One of Beach Books’ favorite authors who returned for the October “Lunch in the Loft” series, as part of her 50-stop book tour to promote “Sold on a Monday,” set in Depression-era America.
McMorris, who lives in Happy Valley, detoured from giving an author reading, opting to do a slide presentation of her journey to becoming an author and the real life stories that have inspired that process
Her gift of talking comes from the Irish side of her family, she said, as she conveyed to an attentive audience anecdotes of real life people she happened upon in her researches.
McMorris pitches her first book “Letters from Home” as a “cross between ‘The Notebook’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan,’” as it was based on the true story of her grandparents’ long distance courtship through hand-written letters during World War II.
“It all started with a family Christmas project,” McMorris said. “I wanted to create a self-published cookbook to include about 400 of her favorite recipes she collected and created over the decades.”
McMorris wanted to also include a biography of her grandmother, and through their conversations, she discovered the history of the letters, that until then, no one in the family had seen. Here, her grandma Jean revealed that the couple “had only dated twice during the war.”
Thinking about the letters and the story behind them, McMorris thought it would make a great movie. “It would be Cyrano de Bergerac set in World War II; a movie I would totally go see.”
A few years later and pregnant with her second child, McMorris decided to write the book, not realizing how difficult it would be. She attempted to write a movie she had in her head and soon realized she was clueless on how to put her vision on paper.
“I started reading like crazy and learning and understanding the craft more.” She attended workshops, gave critiques and plotted — using post-it’s as a reference guide for her books.
She said even through the many rejection letters she received, she continued to send queries and work on her craft because “it would only take one.”
It took many drafts to complete “Letters from Home” and since its debut, McMorris has written 12 books, all inspired by historical events.
In listening to McMorris describe her process and the stories she encountered, her drive is evident and her inspiration is noticeable. To understand the essence of her subject matter, she immerses herself into its atmosphere.
From riding in a B-17 bomber and taking a tour of the Manzanar War Relocation Camp for “Bridge of Scarlet Leaves;” or taking leads from a declassified document about Nazi saboteurs in 1942 America, a news story about a boy who suffered from severe night terrors about dying in a plane crash during World War II and how it correlated to her own son’s night terrors for “The Pieces We Keep;” to being inspired by the documentary “Children of Alcatraz” and touring the Island to get the whole scope of what life was like for “The Edge of Lost.”
The inspiration behind “Sold on a Monday” was based on a web photo showing a posted sign that read “4 Children For Sale — Inquire Within.”
After having a visceral reaction to the photo and asking herself, “What would bring a parent to ask for money in return?” McMorris set out to find an answer when she read an article hinting the photo may have been staged.
Taking that twist, adding a true account of a male society editor in Toronto and other headlines of interest, McMorris set about writing “Sold on a Monday,” a story about desperation combined with ambition.
“So, what brought me here today is my grandmother asking me if I would type out her recipes when I had a chance,” she said. And for that reason, based on that one question led McMorris to become the accidental author.