The amusement park called Geauga Lake had celebrated almost a hundred summers when I first walked wide-eyed under the clock tower entrance and into another world. It was a place of wonder for me and generations of children in Ohio, a place where we could dream. Sadly, this park is closed now, the rides rusty, weeds overtaking the midway once crowded with people, but the memories of this place, a gallery of pictures, are forever etched in my mind.
When I began writing Enchanted Isle, I wanted to write a story about a park once filled with beauty and wonder as well, an abandoned park that had seemingly lost its way. And I wanted to set this story in a magical place.
England’s Lake District, near the border of Scotland, is a labyrinth of lakes and rugged fells, waterfalls and wildflowers, legends and lore. As I researched this beautiful district, my idea about a fictional park, one inspired by the sea, began to grow. And I knew exactly where to build this park—on one of the mysterious islands in these lakes.
When I journeyed to the Lake District to research last year, a friend named Diana graciously hosted me in her seventeenth-century stone home above Windermere. She took me on a grand treasure hunt to explore Roman ruins along with the hills covered in daffodils and the icy blue lakes called meres. I heard the wonderful stories from people who’d grown up in this district, drank pots of black Twinings tea, and savored the local mint cakes and gingerbread.
Near the end of my trip, I headed north to explore the library, cathedral, and museum in Carlisle, home of Hadrian’s Wall and other Roman ruins. I was a short train ride away from a Scottish town called Gretna Green, known in history for “runaway weddings,” and I couldn’t resist taking a train up north even though the ticket agent wouldn’t sell me a return ticket back to England. He said I’d never make the train; it was supposed to leave the moment my train arrived in the Scotland station.
I stood by the train door as we crossed over the river that separated these two countries, and when the doors of my train opened, I bolted up the rain-soaked steps, across the bridge, and ran down toward the train preparing to leave on the other track.
The engineer graciously waited until I was inside before heading south.
When the returning conductor asked why I didn’t have a ticket, I told him the British station refused to sell me one. And I explained my race across the platform, my 15-second visit to his country.
“Why would ya do that?” he asked, dumbfounded.
“Because I’ve never been to Scotland before.”
He mumbled something about crazy Americans as I paid a few pence for the return fare.
Why did I decide to write a novel about an abandoned amusement park in the Lake District? Because of the beautiful and mystery there, but also perhaps because it has never been done before. And because I’m a little crazy….
I thoroughly enjoyed my week in the Lakes and then the months wandering the lakes and fells in my mind as I wrote Enchanted Isle. I hope you will join me on this journey to England and the abandoned amusement park ride that’s harboring a deadly secret from the past.