I first went to Ireland when I was 22. Not unlike Clementine’s story, I flew into Shannon Airport, got off the plane in a foreign land with a backpack, a passport, and a destination. In a few days I was expected at St. Joseph’s Presentation School in Castleisland, County Kerry where I would student teach for the next few months. It was 2002—forget smart phones, I didn’t even have a cell phone. Google Maps? Nope. All I had were a few hand written directions about where to catch the right bus and in what city. Without a friend, a family member, a cell phone, and all hopped up on jetlag, it hit me—I was completely alone in unfamiliar territory for the first time in my life. It was terrifying … and exhilarating.
It’s not hard to fall in love with Ireland. The rumors are true. It’s gorgeous. The people are the nicest you’ll ever meet. The Guinness is amazing. And the music stays with you long after you leave this magical island.
It’s the perfect setting for a love story.
The idea for The Upside of Falling Down popped up during a speaking engagement at a high school in Denver. I did a group brainstorming session with approximately seventy students and someone hollered out, “Write a book about the lone survivor of a plane crash!” The idea stuck. I spun the story around in my head, jotting down notes, doing my usual months of pre-writing when an idea manifests in my imagination. And I came to one conclusion—this would be a love story and it most definitely would be set in Ireland.
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Love and Ireland go hand-in-hand for me. It is a country that not only welcomed this American all those years ago, but fostered my adulthood. Like Clementine in The Upside of Falling Down, I discovered who I was while living in County Kerry. I stumbled. I soared. I got lost. I dyed my hair red. I changed it back to blonde. I was lonely one day and on top of the world the next. I survived on calling cards and Coronation Street. I met friends. I traveled. I discovered I was a strong, capable, adventurous woman who, while terrified at the start, navigated a new life and gained confidence in my own being.
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My experience in Ireland set my life on a trajectory embracing adventures. The Upside of Falling Down is a love story in the truest sense, but it is my love song to Ireland as well. It’s my way of saying thank you to a country that helped me grow into the adult I am now. Writing Clementine’s adventures and missteps, her fears and courageous moments, while not my own, was a way to revisit a meaningful time in my life with full gratitude and awe.
I’m pretty sure my parents were as nervous as I was when I got on that plane in 2002, but they were also full of encouragement. Now I have daughters. When it’s their turn to step off a plane, whether in Ireland or somewhere else, I hope they will embrace the unknown, the fear, the adventures, and the abundance that life has to offer. And like my parents, I will be cheering them on from the sidelines.
Rebekah Crane is the author of The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland and other young-adult novels. She found a passion for this genre while studying secondary English education at Ohio University. She is a former high school English teacher, a yoga instructor, and the mother of two girls. After living and teaching in six different cities, Rebekah finally settled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to write novels and work on screenplays. She now spends her days tucked behind a laptop at 7500 feet, where the altitude only enhances the writing experience.
Featured photo: Aaron Kato / Unsplash