An Inspiring Trip to the Lake

In my previous post, I told you about the new writing projects I’ve been working on, and I shared a sneak peek at one of them: the beginning of my Northanger Abbey sequel. Today, I thought I’d give you a little clue about one of the other projects, since I’ve just returned from a week in the place that inspired the story idea: Ashley Lake, near Kallispel, Montanta.

20180723_202613_resizedMy husband is originally from Kallispel, and his family used to own a cabin on Ashley Lake. Through a serendipitous turn of events, that very same cabin is now back in his extended family, and we’ve generously been invited to use it for our vacation destination the last two summers. The lake itself is beautiful, with some of the clearest turquoise water you’ll ever see outside of the Caribbean. Knowing the history of the cabin makes the spot that much more special for us.

20180722_122451_resizedWhen we were there last summer, someone told us about a sunken car on the far side of the lake. So we paddled our canoe over to take a look. Sure enough, there in about fifteen feet of water was the rusting hulk of a VW bug, the roof and various other parts missing.

20180722_100026_resizedI couldn’t help wondering what the story was. Who had owned the car and how had it ended up at the bottom of the lake? It was too far from shore to have been pushed or driven into the water, accidentally or on purpose. VWs used to be reputed pretty air-tight and therefore able to float for several minutes. Had somebody, on a dare or as a prank, rowed it out as far as they could before it sank? The other possibility seemed to be that it had been driven out on the ice in the winter. Was the ice too thin and it had broken through? Or had the car been abandonded there intentionally to sink with the spring thaw? And why?

I’d love to know the answers, but I probably never will. No matter. The wheels were already turning as I began imagining a scenario of my own. Then I got the idea it might be interesting to tell the story from the car’s point of view.

The project sat on the back burner while I finished up The Ladies of Rosings Park, but I kept rolling it over in my mind from time to time. Visiting Ashley Lake and its mysterious sunken VW again this past week has encouraged me to keep working to see what I can make of it. Unfortunately, I haven’t thought of a Jane Austen connection for the story yet!


Here’s the opening. Let me know what you think and if this is the craziest idea I’ve ever come up with. Okay, I know it is, but maybe it’ll work anyway? 🙂


Not all cars have souls. At least that’s what I have concluded after all these years. In fact, I might be the only one. I have looked hundreds – probably thousands – of other vehicles in the face, sending them positive energy and hoping to detect some sign of intelligence in return. But I’m always disappointed. Blank stares; that’s all I ever get. Blank stares and silence.

True communication would be impossible, I realize, even if we all achieved consciousness. Unfortunately our creators haven’t seen fit to give automobiles the ability to speak. Which is very short sighted of them, in my opinion. Think how many accidents could be avoided if one car could simply yell to another, “Hey, watch out! My driver hasn’t seen you, and he’s not going to stop in time!” The real solution, of course, would be self-driving cars. Let’s cut out the middle man and leave the driving to the experts. That’s what I say. Well, maybe someday, but not as of 2007.

Still, I like to think that certain humans possess the ability to connect with beings beyond their own species. Maggie did. I suppose she still does, wherever she is. We had a real connection. I think she might even have loved me, at least enough to give me my own name: Leonard. Maybe that’s how I got my soul too; her love made me worthy of one.

Now look at me. I can hardly believe that a noble VW beetle, especially one who was found soul-worthy, should end in this kind of disgrace. But maybe that’s what happens to us all eventually. I don’t know. We’re used until we show our age and then left to corrode and die somewhere, alone, forgotten, perhaps even stripped of vital parts.

Still, a cold, watery grave seems particularly harsh. In my current predicament, there’s nothing I can do to prevent every passing fish from swimming in and out my open windows and other orifices, nipping at my faded, flaking, powder-blue paint and dropping their filth wherever they please. I try to ignore them… same as I try to ignore the feel of rust eating ever deeper into my steel frame, like some terrible, creeping skin disease. I don’t want to think about what must have happened to my engine by now. And I shudder to imagine what sort of nasty creature has recently made a home for itself in my tailpipe.

What can I say? It’s degrading, and my main consolation is remembering my glory days with Maggie. It was a long time ago now, but I still recall every detail of those few wonderful years. Taking good care of her, especially when danger struck, is what made my whole life worthwhile. Never mind what came afterward. Even knowing the end from the beginning, I would gladly do it all over again.

20180719_095727_resizedNow don’t panic! I wouldn’t leave poor Leonard there at the bottom of the lake, fish swimming in and out. Trust me. You know I believe in happy endings!

No scheme could have been more agreeable to Elizabeth…”Oh, my dear, dear aunt,” she rapturously cried, “what delight! what felicity! You give me fresh life and vigour. Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are young men to rocks and mountains? Oh! what hours of transport we shall spend! And when we do return, it shall not be like other travellers… We will recollect what we have seen. Lakes, mountains, and rivers…” (Pride and Prejudice, chapter 27)

About Shannon Winslow

author of historical fiction in the tradition of Jane Austen
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7 Responses to An Inspiring Trip to the Lake

  1. caroleincanada says:

    Haha! You never know when the Muse will strike and what ideas she will literally drop in your brain, or the lake! Love the photos and it is absolutely wonderful that the cabin is back in your extended family! I must say it reminds me of ‘Herby the Lovebug’ but I’m liking your Leonard better! What the heck…run with it! I was thinking you can’t leave him at the bottom of the lake! I’m leaning towards someone taking him out on the ice for ice fishing too late in the season! Love the photos and look forward to further updates!

  2. Anji says:

    What an amazing place to be able to visit for a holiday! Thanks for sharing your photos with us. Like Carol, I immediately thought of Herbie from the film The Love Bug as well. I loved that film when I was growing up.

    I would say, let your Muse take you on this adventure, even if you don’t actually publish but just post online. It sounds as if it’ll be a lot of fun, with the potential to be rather poignant at times, too.

  3. Sonia says:

    Shannon, the water in that lake is the clearest I have ever seen in a lake! Usually, the water is murky-looking and uninviting. And, how wonderful that you get to use the “family” cabin”. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos.

    As for Leonard, what a fertile imagination you possess! The titbit you have already written has me wanting more! I, too, thought of Herbie, when I read it. Poor Leonard. I actually feel empathy for him. You could even turn his story into a children’s book, no? Whatever you write is always entertaining so it leaves us, your faithful readers, with something more to anticipate.

    By the way, I recently cajoled an “I-hate-to-read” friend into reading “Leap of Faith” and upon reaching the end, she begged to borrow “Leap of Hope”. (I hope we can look forward to more of those “one of these days”). She now plans to read all of your P&P variations that occupy their special shelf in my apartment. You have hooked another one, Shannon! Way to go!!

    • Yes, we are very lucky to have been able to vacation at Ashley Lake the last two years, and hopefully for more to come. As for Leonard, I’m still trying to work out his personality. Is he cute and cudley like Herbie, or is he more analytical, completely baffled by humans and their emotions? I’ll keep writing, and wait for that to become clear. Usually the characters (my own, not JA’s) let me know who they are along the way. 😉 Lovely to hear I have helped to convert another non-reader to an enthusiastic reader! Thanks for sharing my books with your friend and her story with me, Sonia!

  4. Pingback: Coming Attractions | Shannon Winslow's "Jane Austen Says…"

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