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So many readers loved little Emmaline in When Silence Sings. She’s the child Serepta McLean unexpectedly takes in after her family is killed in a crash. I introduced Emmaline in part because Serepta needed some hint of softness–something that would help readers see that she’s not ALL bad.

But where did I get Emmaline’s story you may wonder? Did I just pull a tragedy out of my hat in order to create a sympathetic character? I mean, her father THROWS her from a truck just before it’s smashed by a train. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Nope–I’m not that creative. Rather, I read a snippet from the Coshocton Tribune in Ohio dated September 27, 1937. And I knew I had to work it into a story.

Montgomery, W. Va. – Two-year-old EMOGENE BROWN, in a hospital today with a broken arm, was the only survivor of a train-truck accident in which seven persons were killed. The child was thrown clear of the crash by her father ELLORY T. BROWN, 36, just before a Chesapeake and Ohio passenger train struck the truck at Hansford grade crossing, 20 miles east of Charleston, last night. The dead besides BROWN were: his wife, BERTHA, 36; their four children, WILLIAM, 4; MYRTLE, 9; RUBY, 12; and DONALD, 17, and W. F. JAMES, 60, driver of the truck.

I dare any writer to read that and NOT want to write a story around it.

And I still wonder what happened to Emogene Brown . . . she’d be about 86 years old now.