The Hollow Ground

Photos of the Carbondale Mine Fire Zone courtesy of Mary Jo Loyd.


Telling an old story that is still hot - Irish Echo


While I was a young child my grandfather lived in the Pocono area of Pennsylvania and through him, I became familiar with the nearby city of Carbondale.  It was back then, in my childhood years, that my desire to write about Carbondale formed.   There was something about the city’s steep, narrow streets and large, often dilapidated, homes that called to me.


It wasn’t until years later, though, that I had the inspiration for Brigid’s story and knew I wanted to set the novel in Carbondale (which I renamed Barrendale in the book).  From my grandfather’s neighbor I’d heard about how coal mine fires had sunk houses and poisoned people, but at that time, I’d had no intention of writing about a coal mine fire.  In fact I didn’t even know about Carbondale’s fire until I started doing research on the city.


Gradually as I learned more and more about that fire and the horrific conditions the residents had survived, I knew I also wanted to tell the story of the fire.  That’s when THE HOLLOW GROUND started to take shape.  Up until then, I thought the novel would be about a gift for healing that Brigid had inherited from her Auntie.  But the story of the fire soon overtook the story of Brigid’s healings, and I was forced to scrap the bulk of the novel I’d already written and start anew.


By that time I was pregnant and deeply concerned that I would never manage to complete the novel once the baby was born.  As it turned out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  My baby’s first year of life was the most productive writing year of my own life!  She had colic and I’d spend hours in a rocking chair, holding her in my left arm while writing with my right.  My incredibly supportive mother and husband also did everything they could to give me time to type and rewrite.