My first glimpse of New Mexico was through a car window as I traveled with my family on the first of many summer expeditions from St. Louis to California along Route 66. I was nine years old, and I was most interested in spotting more out-of-state license plates than my brother and bugging my father to stop at souvenir stands.
But something about the place stayed with me long after those vacation trips had become fragmented bits of family nostalgia. Maybe it was the Indians selling baskets and jewelry in Gallup restaurants. Maybe it was the music of spoken Spanish, or the dusty pueblos or the way the stars filled up the black night sky from rim to rim.
Years later when I was dating my husband Geoff, I visited him in Santa Fe, where he was working. On the ride from the Albuquerque airport to Santa Fe, I sat mesmerized as the landscape slid past—rolling hills covered with pinon and juniper, red sandstone bluffs against piercing blue sky—both exotic and familiar at the same time, and I began to feel a kind of thrum, like low voltage electricity dancing over my skin.
By the time I got around to writing my second novel, the idea of New Mexico had been percolating on the back burner for quite awhile—not even really an idea, but something more nebulous. A mood. A sense of possibilities.
In the fall of 2001 I spent two months in Santa Fe, researching Isabel’s Daughter, and immersing myself in the magic of the Southwest. I read a lot of books about the area, both fiction and nonfiction, and it seemed to me that the logical story to set in New Mexico would be a ghost story or a mystery. I think Isabel’s Daughter is both of those things, but not in the usual sense. The story’s ghosts are in the hearts of the living. Instead of a “Whodunnit,” the mystery is more a “Who am I?
It’s a story about discovering your past and your future, learning who to love and who to trust. It about how we all—no matter what our circumstances—discover who we are and take our place in the world.