On a hot July day, Diane Lane is the lone person in the lone house in a new development called Ingram’s Point in Long Neck.
Lane is conducting an open house at the first model home. A realtor for 20 years, Lane is at least in the comfort of air conditioning. A mother of three, she has the air of a school teacher, bright and intelligent yet personable. Lane has recently begun a second career as a published author.
Her first book, “I Loved Her Enough,” was based on the life of Eileen Wharton Spence, a longtime friend of Lane’s mother. Lane said she knew Spence had taken part in the Fresh Air Fund program, which allows children from New York City to be hosted by a family for two weeks in the summer.
Lane said Eileen came to Milford through the program, where she was hosted by Bayard and Sarah Wharton, who had never had children. Eventually, they adopted Eileen, but she didn’t know much more beyond that.
Lane’s mother died young, but Lane said she remained friends with Eileen, who was like a grandmother to Lane’s three children. Lane said she’s not sure what prompted it, but she asked Eileen about her background.
“She would never talk about it,” Lane said. “To her, she was 5 years old, and her life in New York was tragic. Her mother had died from tuberculosis, her grandmother was elderly, and they were begging at the markets for food. It was a bleak time.”
It was not until 1997 that Eileen opened up about her experiences.
“I wanted to know. As reluctantly as she started out, I told her I was going to write it all down and make a record of it for future generations. We interviewed on a regular basis to get the story. Each time, things would surface. We would interview for about three months. Looking back at her life, it wasn’t the tragic story that she remembered as a 5-year old. It was a beautiful love story. And it was healing for her,” Lane said.
Lane said instead of remembering her mother dying and living in poverty, she instead remembered the love and support of the Whartons, and how even though they were not her biological parents, they became like a mom and dad to her. She said while Eileen, who died in 2001, didn’t try to hide who she was, she was reticent to share that part of herself.
Lane kept notes from the interviews, but it wasn’t until about seven years ago that she joined Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, which helped get the creative juices flowing.
The book takes place in 1933. To get details of the period, Lane put together a study group at The Moorings at Lewes, inviting women who were teachers and English majors to whom she would read. She said the women at The Moorings were able to recall details of the day, like how people drank loose tea and did not use tea bags. Lane said she also went to Delaware Public Archives to research the time period.
Lane also established a routine for herself.
“I would write from 6 to 8 a.m. every morning. I’d get my coffee, and I’d get my shower and go to work. I’d have to shake off 1933. But because I wrote every day, you would wake up with the ideas in your head for the day. I could just stay with it,” she said.
Lane said the biggest challenge was getting the tone of the book right, since it was based on Eileen’s own words.
“I had all the juicy tidbits and the story. I just had to write,” she said.
Lane said she also kept a journal during writing, which helped keep track of words and phrases she would use later.
Originally from Harrington, Lane raised her children in Milford. As the kids moved out, Lane moved to downtown Lewes 10 years ago.
“I like it because it’s quiet,” Lane said. “I’m in a little spot but the best place.”
She’s very proud her book can be purchased at her daughter Jamie’s store, Bomshell Boutique in Rehoboth. She also achieved a local author’s dream July 28 when she signed her book at Browseabout Books.
Lane said for her next project, she’s eyeing a series of children’s books, including one based on a true story about a young girl who loses her stuffed bear in Hurricane Katrina and tries to get it back.
She said she’s been taken aback by the response to “I Loved Her Enough,” with people writing and telling her about their own experiences with the Fresh Air Fund.
“I just wanted to be proud of it,” Lane said. “I wanted people to feel the emotions of the characters.”