The Original Pearlie Lou

One of my college creative writing assignments was to interview someone. Anyone. Then we were to write an article based on that interview.

I didn’t have to think twice about who I wanted to interview. I knew it had to be my grandma. For one, she lived nearby. I happened to work at the retirement home where she lived. For another, I’d always been intrigued by her life.



Grandma had always been full of stories of racing around the farm in Blissfield, Michigan with her cousin Gerald or hitch hiking to Ottawa Lake with her girlfriends. She’d told me more than a few times about how she waited tables at a diner in Toledo and later met my grandpa when she went dancing at a beer garden.


But there were so many holes. So many questions I had for her about the father who left or the mother who sent her to live with her Uncle Gustav and Aunt Carrie. I wanted to know how she felt about all of that. I wanted to know about her marriage when she was 16 years old and the baby she claimed had died. I was hungry, eager to understand her.

When it came time to interview her, I lost my nerve.

She died a few years later and I will always regret the not knowing.

When I started work on A Cup of Dust, I hoped to flesh out my Grandma Pearl’s story. To feel a sort of connection with her.


Pearl’s story isn’t exactly Grandma Pearl’s story. But there are mirror images of my grandma’s life in the novels.


Grandma Pearl’s Ray was her cousin Gerald. She spent years living with her Uncle Gustav and Aunt Carrie in Blissfield. Grandma was a tough cookie who found it hard to resist a dare. And my grandma loved to dance.

I like to imagine that when she danced she lost herself to the music, letting her arms swing and her legs kick. And I like to think that when she first danced with Grandpa Jack that she knew that she’d found home.




This is is! Release week for the final installment of Pearl Spence’s story. I’m still wrapping my head and heart around it. It’s bittersweet, that’s for sure.

You know what would help make it better? If you’d celebrate with me. November 28, 2017 I’ll be hosting a Facebook release party and you’re all invited! We’ll have fun facts, short videos, challenges, and giveaways! Whoooooooo Hooooooo! Click HERE to RSVP. Don’t forget to invite your book loving friends!


5 Comments on “The Original Pearlie Lou

  1. What a beautiful – and fascinating – woman your grandmother was. Loved learning more about the inspiration for one of my very favorite fictional characters!


  2. Pingback: The Original Uncle Gus and Aunt Carrie | Susie Finkbeiner

  3. Pingback: #FBF: Spaghetti Westerns – Susie Finkbeiner

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