“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching... I have been bent and broken, but--I hope--into a better shape.” – Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Ella Mae Hutchins knows exactly what she wants from life. Getting it turns out to be much harder than she expects. She has only two dreams: to marry Daniel Evans and to become a successful novelist. When neither dream seems achievable, she sets out to build a life without either.
After all her efforts fail, Ella Mae returns to her hometown broken. Determined to start again, the last thing she expects is to encounter the man she blames for ruining her life.
Although age and suffering have changed them both, can she forgive Daniel for breaking her heart and is she brave enough to hope for a writing career in a time when female novelists are rare?
It doesn’t take much imagination to know where the inspiration came from for Ella Mae’s character. At an early age, I developed a love for reading and writing and began cultivating a dream that one day I could find my name on the New York Time’s Best Seller List. Although my favorite fictional characters growing up were Anne of Green Gables and Josephine March from Little Women, in college I discovered literary fiction and fell in love with Mark Helprin’s A Soldier of the Great War. At that time, I concluded that in order to be successful, I must write in a similar male voice if I wanted to receive credit and acclaim from male critics.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I, like Anne Shirley and Jo March, circled back to the simplicity of my early love for imagination and literature, and it was this mindset which inspired me to write WHERE THIS ROAD ENDS. When I was young, like Ella Mae, I was always in a corner with my nose in a book or lost in my own imagination, creating stories. I wrote my first full length novel when I was fifteen (in the olden days of paper and pen and hardback encyclopedias!) and by the time I graduated high school, it had evolved into a three-book series. I was full of hope, and then… Life happened. As it does to everyone. And I lost faith in myself and in my dream.
When I moved to Ridgely, Maryland, I had already self-published two different series, six books total, and I was in a much more hopeful place. I was inspired by the old town charm and the 1895 house which I was living in (it now has a new caretaker). How often do you get to include your own home in an historical fiction novel? I was pretty excited about it! It is known by locals as the John Jarrell House and was constructed as a boarding house during a time of growth in Ridgely, thanks to the fertile farmlands and the railroad.
The doors on the house still bore the brass numbers and one of the wooden double doors to the room I used as my office was still stenciled in old time type: “Office.” In the backyard, the barn still stood which had served as a carriage house for the horses and buggies of the family and guests. It was easy to place myself in a different time period and imagine my characters living in the house and walking the streets of Ridgely.
Like so many other small Eastern Shore towns, the survival of Ridgely was directly linked to its ability to ship goods through the railroad, so the title of the series seemed like a logical tribute. In typical eccentric writer fashion, I holed myself up from the world throughout the winter months and did little else but research and write in my spare time. I also began planning the cover for the novel, and it only seemed natural for it to include a picture of the old railroad station. It wasn’t until I emerged from my hermitage in the spring that I learned the local historical society had been working to preserve the station and it would be ready for its grand debut at the same time I was ready to call in my graphic designer. Talk about perfect timing!
Recently this novel was reviewed as “A sweet, but sad, story.” I promise it has a happy ending! Not every love story does. My daughter refuses to watch Little Women with me since Jo and Teddy don’t end up together. But in the spirit of Anne Shirley finally finding her soulmate in Gilbert, Ella Mae will marry Daniel to satisfy that longing in all our hearts!
For personal reasons, this will always be one of my favorites of the novels I’ve written. My hope for readers is that you will not only learn more about the historical time period and old time Ridgley, but be inspired to grow from your trials and suffering and never lose hope!