By Emma Palova
The Lost Town
In the third book of the Shifting Sands series- “The Lost Town”- author Emma Palova of Lowell creates the protagonist, Miss Ida. The historical fiction novel is set in the ghost town of Singapore on the shores of Lake Michigan at the foot of the sand dunes adorned with white pines. Beautiful Ida is torn between her hometown of Chicago and her new home on the other side of the lake, and between two men.
Developed by New York investors, the once-thriving settlement of Singapore nurtured the dreams of adventurers like Oshea Wilder and pioneer settlers alike. Singapore would rival Chicago and Milwaukee. It almost did with its sawmills, hotels, boarding houses, stores, and a “wildcat” bank.
Entrepreneurial Ida struggles to adjust to the rough environment but finds more than support from her boss who invited her to Singapore to be the “Mistress” of the Big House. A “wildcat” bank was established in Singapore in 1837.
Who will win Ida’s heart?
I first visited Saugatuck originally “Flats” in the mid-1990s while exploring the Lake Michigan shore and its resorts. It struck me as a charming resort town at the confluence of the Kalamazoo River and Lake Michigan. I immediately fell in love with the shops on main which is Butler Street named after the first white settler, William Butler, who came to the area in 1830.
I was already writing at the time, always on the lookout for new themes and subjects. The lakeshore has provided a bounty of stories with its natural beauty settings, the Great Lakes lore and history. Enchanted by the small-town atmosphere of these lakeshore resorts, I wrote travel pieces for different magazines and newspapers. In pursuit of a travel story, I took a ride aboard the Saugatuck riverboat to the mouth of the Kalamazoo River, the re-engineered channel that cut off half a mile of the river with its bends near the buried ghost town of Singapore.
It was at the northernmost bend of the Kalamazoo River where the thriving settlement of Singapore once stood. One of the largest sand dunes in the area stands on what the old maps indicate as the main street in Singapore running east to west on top of the bend.
On another visit, we took a ride through the eerie sand dunes north of Saugatuck, and that too stayed with me forever along with the sand dune Mt. Baldhead aka Monarch of Dunes that I never got to climb. And that the sand hills could bury a town with its dreams and its future. Was it destiny?
I stepped inside the Saugatuck Drug Store at 201 Butler Street in the summer of 1995 and found out about the ghost town Singapore buried in the shifting sands from a book about Singapore. I was determined to write about this Michigan’s most famous ghost town. I just didn’t know when. I must have used some of the information about the ghost town of Singapore in an essay, but I don’t remember when. It’s been that long ago. But the inspiration never went away. It just stayed with me.
In 2017, I published the first book in the Shifting Sands series: “Short Stories.” I used the analogy of shifting sands in the case of character development that characters shift their personalities with their stories if they make it. I like the idea, people loved the title and the stories, so I continued with book two in the Shifting Sands series: “Secrets.”
During an author’s event at the Lakeshore Art Festival (LAF) in Muskegon in 2019 & 2021, several people asked me if Shifting Sands series has a story about the original shifting sand dune of Muskegon. I didn’t know there was a shifting dune in Muskegon. So, I pulled out the book about Singapore searching for inspiration. I wanted to write a short story about Singapore in the third book in the Shifting Sands series: “Steel Jewels.”
However, I found out there was a lot more to Singapore that would make it into a novel on its own merit. I switched tracks from penning a book of short stories as my NaNoWriMo 2021 project to penning a novel “Shifting Sands: “The
Lost Town.” It seemed like a natural transition considering the town’s interesting destiny. I did some research ahead of time.
We visited Saugatuck on October 8th, 2021, and stopped at the museum of the Saugatuck Douglas Historical Society (SDHS) where I took pictures of the exact location of the ghost town of Singapore. Once I started writing the novel, I did research as I wrote. The research usually transpired into later scenes which have proven to be an interesting insight in itself.
This is my second historical fiction piece after “Silk Nora” in “Secrets.” I love history because it inspires my writing, whether non-fiction or fiction. “Greenwich Meridian Memoir” is set on the backdrop of two major historical events: the 1968 Prague Spring and the 1989 Velvet Revolution. History seeps into most of my stories.
The whimsical cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford. The book was edited by Carol Briggs of Lowell.
Winter book signings
Nov. 18-20 Christmas through Lowell, Lowell Area Historical Museum, 325 W. Main St., Lowell, MI
Dec. 3 West Catholic High School Craft Show,
9:00 am – 3:00 pm
West Catholic High School
1801 Bristol Ave NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49504
Listen in to the interview on @The Morning Show with Shelley Irwin on
95.3 / 88.5 FM Grand Rapids and 95.3 FM Muskegon
Click on the link below to listen to the interview.
13 on your side, interview with Meredith TerHarr, Oct. 27
The cover was designed by graphic artist Jeanne Boss of Rockford, and the book was edited by Carol Briggs of Lowell.
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