This is the question fired at all authors: "Where do you get your
You can answer by saying you clip interesting articles out of
newspapers, you remember your dreams, you've overheard a conversation
you think might be the seed for a story, and so on and so forth, but I
think there are really two, intermingled answers: "I see something
strange, and I'm curious about it."
That's how Bethany's Sin, my second published novel, was born.
I used to drive the same way to work everyday, a twisting route
through Birmingham's Southside. On that route, I always passed a
rather forbidding-looking Gothic house with a simple sign out front.
That sign said: Women's Club. Nothing else.
Women's Club. Okay. We start from there.
I never saw anyone enter or come out of that house, though there were
always cars parked in front. Lights were on at night. A shadow moved
across a window: someone looking out? Women's Club. Anyone know what
they do in there, or what purpose the club has, or anybody who belongs
to it? No. It's just ... always been there.
Now we enter the realm of the imagination. Imagine, if you will, a
town whose center is the Women's Club. It's a lovely town, of course.
The lawns are always perfect, the storefronts neat and appealing, the
streets are clean, and there never seems to be any crime in this town.
But there is, of course, the Women's Club.
See how these ideas get started?
I used real place names as towns that surrounded Bethany's Sin. After
the book was published, I received a letter from the mayor of one of
those towns. The mayor said I ought to come up and spend a few days,
and see just how wrong I was about that area.
That's what she said.
I didn't go.
After reading Bethany's Sin, tell me if I was chicken or not.
I still have no idea what went on—goes on, because the
place is still there—at the Women's Club. Maybe all men suspect
strange things go on behind the walls of anyplace we're not admitted.
Maybe it's just a place where ... well, where women's club stuff goes
A friend of mine, married for many years, read Bethany's Sin
and told me he found himself awake late one night, looking at his wife
as she slept peacefully beside him. He told me he thought of horses
in the dark, and falling axes, and he wondered if he knew everything
that went on in his wife's mind. Maybe he was afraid there was a
place in her where he wasn't admitted, and what went on behind those
Better left unknown?
But then he got up against her and kissed her cheek, and everything
was all right. After all, it's just a book. In our society, loved
ones don't kill each other, do they?
I pass the Women's Club occasionally. I have yet to see anyone enter
or leave, but the lawn is always perfectly manicured, the building
itself is well-kept, the walkway leading to its front door clean and
swept. Everything is just as it should be. The Women's Club members
must be very proud of their house. They know how much appearances
count, in this imperfect world.
Late at night, there are lights on in the Women's Club.
And somewhere, if only through the nightmare landscape of the mind,
there are hoofbeats in the dark.
Robert R. McCammon