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Heather Graham entertains crowd with many stories

By Staff | Dec 16, 2015

Author Heather Graham spent time autographing her books after her hour-long speech at the Sanibel Public Library. MEGHAN MCCOY

The first Sanibel Public Library Author Series of this season kicked off last week with a full room of interested readers wanting to learn more about author Heather Graham.

“I am absolutely delighted to be here. I am a huge fan of libraries,” she said. “I spent a great deal of time in the library.”

Graham began by sharing information about her family, particularly her parents. Her mom was born in Dublin, Ireland before her family immigrated to Chicago and her father was born in Stirling, Scotland before moving to northern Wisconsin.

“They were just great parents. They happened to meet and marry in Chicago. They had what I considered to be a very brilliant idea of moving to Florida,” Graham said of growing up in Miami. “They were certainly interesting people to have as parents.”

She described her parents to be terrific readers who arrived in the United States with a stack of books, which provided her with great material to read.

“Some of the really good research books that I was lucky enough to have did come from Ireland,” she said. “I think who they were had a great deal to do with what I became and with everything I do.”

While growing up, the author decided that in addition to reading books, she also liked plays. She attended the University of South Florida where she majored in theater.

“I never wanted to be a movie star, I just wanted to be a stage actress,” Graham said, adding that she married out of high school and starting having children, which made it difficult to go to auditions.

She shared many stories of some of her actress gigs, many of which had a tremendous influence on everything she has done.

“When I first got into writing, I remember everybody saying you have to use what you know, so I thought I would put something in Miami. In my very first book I made the mistake by saying someone could see Star Island when in fact you could not because Hibiscus Island would have been in the way,” she said laughing.

The influence from many of her favorite writers while growing up has led her in various directions throughout her writing career.

“I can still to this day read a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ and cry at the very end. It’s just such a good book,” she said.

A ton of history was also shared during her speech, which have been incorporated into many of her books. One of her story ideas stemmed from watching the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, which she explained as one of the most amazing things she had ever seen.

“It was so sad to read all of these things that were out there and it really gripped me. I wanted to do something that would show everything from both sides. I wound up writing a trio of books. ‘One Wore Blue,’ ‘And One Wore Gray,’ ‘And One Rode West.,” Graham said. “I was super thrilled because my kids came running out and they said ‘mom your books are in the Abe Lincoln Museum.’ I was thrilled because I couldn’t believe I was in the Abe Lincoln Museum.”

She said she loves that era so much that she still incorporates them into her book.

The author has also written ghost stories because the ghost had to die sometime, which offers the opportunity to incorporate her love of historical characters in a contemporary fashion.

“One of the reasons I think they have become popular today is because everyone has lost people. When you loose people, what do you want, the belief you get to see them again,” she said.

A USO tour took Graham to Walter Reed, Kuwait and the Iraqi border, which she said was an absolutely amazing thing for her to do.

“It was an experience and it’s like everything else, it is things that go into what you are putting on paper, which is what everyone who write does. You are always using your life,” Graham said.

After her presentation, a question and answer session took place before attendees enjoyed champagne and a variety of appetizers while meeting Graham on a one-on-one basis.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.