For Fair Haven native and author Mary Beth Connor Gibson, going home a second time is definitely a charm when it comes to her latest book signing.
By Elaine Van Develde
Author Mary Beth Connor Gibson’s story started with her mom, a walk to her hometown library, a passion for books and her own writer’s pen.
She took that walk 57 years ago, in May of 1959, to the Fair Haven library with her mom. The native Fair Havenite said she knew something special was about to happen. And it did. She, a then 6-year-old, got her first library card and the first glimmer of what turned out to be enduring, loving support from her mom to live her dream and love of books and become an author.
She is now what she dreamed of then — and has been for a while now. And, most recently, she took a long walk (OK, ride) back to her hometown on Sunday — but not to the library this time. That trek had already been taken more than half a century ago. This journey back home was one to the Fair Haven Firehouse, a Connor family home-away-from-home anchor for the siblings and longtime members, with family and friends for a book signing of her novel Aroon.
The parents Mary Ellen and Joe were there in spirit and pictures hanging on the walls.
And the journey to authorship was remembered as one taken with a mom and family ’til the end.
Connor Gibson’s mother lived her dream with her, supporting her little girl all grown up every step of the way, on another walk to another part of the country.
But it started like this … “I knew by her (Mom’s) enthusiasm that something special was about to happen,” Gibson said. “Once we reached the library, she leaned over and said, ‘You are now old enough to have your own library card.’ I can still feel the pride in my heart as I checked out the first stack of books in my own name. My passion for books is just as strong today.”
Eventually Connor Gibson emigrated from home and ended up living in South Carolina.
“Living in South Carolina, Mom accompanied me on several research trips, like Savannah’s Ships of the Sea Maritime museum or the Redcliffe Plantation,” she said. “She passed away before I finished my book, but she was always encouraging.”
She was encouraged along the way by people other than her mom, but Mom was the mainstay.
“My second grade teacher, Mrs. Pauline Gibson, was the first to encourage my writing, allowing me to read a fairy tale I wrote for the principal, Mr. Petrisin. I think it was about a goat,” she said.
That elementary school goat rather than fairy tale manifested in a dabbling in short stories and such over the years.
But, “when approaching 40, I decided to go for it and write children’s books. Later, I expanded my subject matter to adults, giving me the freedom to explore the challenges and struggles of all classes of people. After learning of the martyrdom of an 18th century Tipperary priest, Nicholas Sheehy, I decided to focus my first novel during that time period.
“The title, Aroon, is the Anglicized version of the Gaelic, a rún, which literally means ‘my secret’ while it’s also used as a term of affection. I interpret it as “my secret love,'” Connor Gibson explained.
Aroon, already an award-winning novel, is set in 18th century Ireland, where jealousy, lust, and oppression lead to gruesome visions with only one way to stop the torture — a killing. So goes the description of the book.
It’s not a spoiler. It’s a delicate tease, as Connor Gibson sees it. She’s not giving away any of the intricate plot. You’ll have to read the devil in the details for yourself.
Here’s a bit of a tidbit more …
“Richard Lynche, anguished heir of Duncullen, clashes with his overbearing letch of a father. The lad’s only solace, the arms of homesick new maid, Eveleen, becomes his greatest agony when he finds himself terrorized by grisly apparitions. The result? One cold corpse.”
“Years of research took me places I’d never guess existed. Bringing it all together dramatically has been extremely gratifying,” said Connor Gibson. “I plan to release the sequel, Harps Upon the Willows, early in 2017.”
So, what’s a little Fair Haven girl to do with a cold corpse, some torture, solace, jealousy, lust and oppression on the mind? Mix the elements in the mind with some notes and thought after a long walk … to the library.
It may not be Oz, but there’s no place like home and the memory of a walk and a mother’s support for the writing of a book and the wrapping of it all up in a signing with lots of hugs and smiles as this author sees it.
About Aroon and Mary Beth Connor Gibson …
Aroon has been awarded the Carrie McCray Literary Award for Novel First Chapter and was a finalist in the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest for Historical Fiction.
Her first chapter, printed in the anthology, The Petigru Review, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Gibson dedicated more than three decades to teaching adolescents in rural South Carolina everything from literature to mathematics to conflict resolution. She passionately believes in the value and dignity of every human being, which she’s carried from her classroom to the pages of her books.