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June 11, 2011

Nancy Thayer: Her Father as Inspiration

Posted by Anonymous
Among her many novels, Nancy Thayer has penned The Hot Flash Club series, as well as HEAT WAVE, a perfect book for summer that's hitting bookstores on June 21st. Below, Nancy turns her attention to her father, from whom she learned the power of writing. Not only would her father run the car for her during blizzards, but he also inspired several characters in her novels.
Dad.jpgHere’s a photo of my father as a child. I’m sure the book was a prop, because Bill Wright was an only child and a mischievous one, more likely to play tricks in his small Kansas town than sit reading. He grew up, went to college, and became a policeman in Wichita, Kansas, where, when he and his partner got bored, they put on their siren and lights and raced the full length of Kellogg, the longest street in the city. Then he went to Officer’s Training School and entered World War II.
After WWII, my father remained extremely involved in the American Legion and town politics. He was patriotic, he was always an usher at the Methodist Church, he loved his family and he adored my mother. He had sparkling blue eyes and he made us laugh a lot. He bought me a car during high school and, in the blizzardy Kansas winters, he went out while I was having breakfast and started the car so it would be warm when I got in it to drive to school. When I was twelve, in 1955, my father got me front row seats at the Orpheum Theater for my friends and me to see Elvis Presley. I got to run up to the stage and touch Elvis’s shoe --- and it was attached to Elvis! I thought our family was boringly average.
When I was in high school, my father became an officer for the Highway Patrol. He had a uniform, a squad car, and a gun. You can imagine the effect this had on the guys I brought home. Later, I discovered --- why didn’t I realize this before? --- that because of his law enforcement network, he always knew exactly where I was, in whose car with which boy, and for how long.
heat wave smaller.jpgMy father had to go overseas during WWII when I was a child, and it was from him I learned the power of writing: how it can transform any given moment of life. I have next to me the album my mother put together of photos and letters my father sent her from Europe. He was the commander of a tank battalion, and he saw a great deal of fighting, but his letters were always cheerful and emphasized the beauty of the countryside or a feast of fried potatoes in a newly occupied house.
He wrote this about an enormous statue of a lion at the Barrage de la Gileppe: “The lion, at least 200 feet high, sits on a large dam and is looking out over a deep valley. On the other side is a large lake bounded by beautiful snow-capped mountains. I drove down from the mountain, across the dam, and down the other side with the old lion keeping watch. For miles he reared his head high above everything --- truly a watch lion.”
When I wrote SUMMER HOUSE, I clearly had my father in mind as the model for Nona’s husband, Herb. In fact, the letters that Herb writes to Anne when they are first married are taken directly from letters from my father to my mother. I still read his letters over and over again, loving the eloquence and modesty of his voice. He loved to read, but more than that, he loved people, all people, and it is that generosity of spirit and that keeping watch that I hope I have inherited from him to use in my writing. Certainly Carley’s father in HEAT WAVE and Jim Fox in BEACHCOMBERS are just like my father --- loving, goodhearted, oh, and did I mention, handsome?