Written by
Jolie du Pre
March 2012
Written by
Jolie du Pre
March 2012

Guest author:  Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy


One of the most common questions I answer as an author is “where do you get your ideas?” I think sometimes people expect me to have either a simple answer such as “I buy them from Idea-a-rama” or a big tale about a moment of epiphany.  The truth falls somewhere in between.  A lot of my inspirations tend to begin with the question “What if?” or just a single image.  Then they grow, sometimes at a fast and furious pace.  On other occasions they need careful incubation and tending like a garden.


When I first moved to my neighborhood on the west edge of Neosho, Missouri about five years ago, I wondered about the history of the land.  I don’t suppose most people would wonder about the past in a modern subdivision with ranch style homes, just about the closest thing we have to suburbs in our small town, but I did.  So once I got settled in and all the boxes were unpacked, I decided to determine the history of the land.  It didn’t take long once I got started.   Using some of the plat maps of the past available in the genealogy room of the Neosho library, I found most of what is now the Greenwood Hills subdivision was once a flourishing fruit farm outside town.  Just like any good history detective I used this information to trace the owners and connected it to Howard Speakman.  Now many local history buffs will know Howard built the lovely old brick home on West Spring Street back in 1904 and although Howard died the next year, the house remained in the Speakman family until around 1920.  Since then, it’s had various owners but since it always reminded me of my childhood home back in St. Joseph, Missouri, I’ve always admired the house.  Of course, I found the connection intriguing.  I collected everything I could about the Speakman fruit farm and Mr. Speakman and although he’s all but forgotten (or unknown) to most Neosho residents today, he did a lot of amazing things for our town including Big Spring Park.  He was also at one time president of the Strawberry Growers Association.  Rumor or legend holds he built the house on Spring Street with the proceeds from one good strawberry season.



Since I deal with imagination most of the time, I found myself wondering what might have happened if Howard Speakman hadn’t died at the age of thirty-five.  I imagined ways he might have improved Neosho and how things could have changed if he left descendants.  Before long I found myself – this happens to authors, an occupational hazard – writing a novel based on Howard’s short life and his fruit farm.  My story began in the present day when a young history teacher from Kansas City came to Neosho when she inherited the house from the grandfather she never knew.  Her mother warned her about ‘the ghost’ but when Lillian, my heroine met him, he wasn’t scary at all but charming.  By this point, I strayed far from reality but that’s the nature of fiction.  Out in February, In Love’s Own Time(Rebel Ink Press) is a romance but it’s hard to classify.  I’ve been telling friends and fans it’s a contemporary/time travel/ghost/paranormal/slipstream/historical romance because it’s all of the above at one portion of the story or another.


Here’s the cover blurb – maybe it explains it best:


There may be no place like home and nothing like love...when history teacher Lillian Dorsey inherits a three story Edwardian brick mansion from the grandfather who banished her pregnant mother decades before, it’s a no brainer.  She’ll visit the place, see it and sell it.  Instead Lillian’s captivated by the beautiful home and intrigued by the ghost of the original owner, Howard Speakman.  Soon she’s flirting with the charming, witty gentleman who’s been dead for more than a century and before long, they admit it’s a mutual attraction.  Still, when she’s alive and he’s dead, any shot at being together seems impossible.

But where there’s a will, there’s a afternoon while pretending to visit the past the impossible becomes a brief reality.  If they visited 1904 before, Lillian knows they can do it again and if so, she can prevent Howard’s untimely death.  With a combination of love, powerful hope, and stubborn will, Lillian bends time to her will and returns to the summer of 1904.  But Howard’s death looms ahead and if she’s to find a happy ending, she must save him from his original death.


“Lillian.” Howard sounded hoarse, his voice cracking with emotion although she wasn’t sure which one, fear, elation, or sorrow.  “This is 1904.”

“How could it be?” Even as she protested, she knew it was true.  The old house was new.  The smell of fresh paint mingled with the Dutch cake aroma and as she’d noticed earlier, the book covers were bright.  Howard’s sheet music pages never yellowed but sparkled unblemished white.  It was true and if it was 1904, then Howard was alive.  He wasn’t a ghost.

Lillian reached for him, stretched out her hand to touch him, and closed her fingers over his arm.  Through the wool of his sleeve, his skin was warm, so alive, and tears formed in her eyes.  Her right hand stroked the curve of his cheek and she clasped his hand with the other.   He twined his fingers through hers, tight as if he might never let go, and pulled her right hand to his lips, brushing her skin with a faint, soft kiss.

“Oh, Howard.”  Her voice broke.  “Howard, you’re real.”

She could touch him now and she could smell him, a rich masculine aroma of soap and leather, and the outdoors.  Before, he’d been a ghost, not tangible, not touchable but for now, he was both and she reveled in him with every sense.  She touched his hair with trembling fingers and rubbed her cheek against his suit jacket.  When she lifted her face, his eyes blazed with emotion and she knew before he bent down they’d kiss.

In her dream, the kiss’d been sweet but in reality, it was sweeter.  His lips heated hers, melted, and moved against her mouth until she couldn’t breathe.  She put her arms around his neck and he held her, one hand flat against her back.   Until now, he’d been unattainable, almost fantasy, but now he was a man, a man who held her in his arms, and she wanted him.  Desire burned like a wavering candle flame but without warning, Howard released her.

“Lillian, I forgot myself.  You must forgive me.”

Her lips, bruised from his mouth, stretched into a smile. “I’ll never forgive you if you don’t kiss me again, Howard.”

“I shouldn’t.” His voice sounded muffled. “But I’ll kiss you, sweet Lillian, though I shouldn’t.  However, for the moment I’m alive. Carpe diem!”

Find Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy at:

Facebook: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy
Twitter: @leeannwriter
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Rebel Writer: Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

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