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1846 Irish Potato Famine: An Unlikely Source for a Love Story

Pamela Ford's newest novel is set in Ireland and America during the Great Famine.

At first glance, the Irish potato famine of 1846 is an unlikely setting for a romance novel. But for Wauwatosa’s Pamela Ford, the Great Famine gave her a rich historical setting in which to set her fictional characters.

In her latest book, To Ride a White Horse, all the usual romance suspects are there: a dashing hero, a determined and beautiful heroine, mixed signals, family disapproval, smoldering passion. But the facts that serve as the novel’s foundation are all too real. And they help make the story greater than the sum of its parts.

To Ride a White Horse was actually Ford's second novel, completed 15 years ago but not to her satisfaction. Three years ago, she pulled it off the shelf and decided to work on it again.

“I always loved it, but at the time I wrote it, I didn’t know a lot about the craft of writing a novel,” says Ford. “I will tell you that it’s harder to fix a broken book, than it is to write a new book from scratch.”

To help connect with the story, Ford traveled to Ireland while working on the story. Seeing the country for the first time helped her get a grasp on what life would have been like for her characters. She spent two years reworking To Ride a White Horse and has plans to write another novel with Sean, the main character’s brother, as the focus.

Ford will be discussing the book in the Literary Corner of Irish Fest this weekend.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.