SANDWICH — Is it a romance or not?
Like any good author, Margaret Rabenau Wright won’t reveal the ending of her first novel, “Pursuit of the Nightingale.”
The story centers on Lt. Andrew Richards, wounded during World War II and a patient in an enemy field hospital, tended by a German nurse who doesn’t speak English. Following the war, Richards returns to Germany to find the nurse he only knows by the nickname the U.S. solders gave her.
“If he finds her, it’s a romance,” Wright said mischievously. “If he doesn’t, it’s heartache.”
Wright, who has lived in Sandwich for four years, grew up in Galesburg, where she went to Knox College. She intended to be a music major, but decided to switch to nursing after her first year.
For years, she worked at St. Joseph Hospital in Belvidere before being promoted to director of in-service education. As part of her duties, she began writing manuals for hospital personnel. She also had articles published in various national nursing magazines.
“At a small hospital, you do a little bit of everything,” she said.
After retiring 20 years ago, she said the idea for the story just came to her. Getting the book published, which took about a year to write in 2010, may have been the hardest part of the whole process.
For one thing, she said, no one accepts stories on paper.
“I had to write 80,000 words on a flash disc,” she said.
The next hurdle was finding a publisher.
“No one in America would read it,” she said. “No one would even open the package. They weren’t interested in anyone new. I just got form (rejection) letters.”
Eventually, she found a publisher on the Internet, based in Canada, Friese Press, which agreed to publish the book. After three rewrites and other changes, like finding the right book cover, “Pursuit of the Nightingale” was published last month.
That also may explain some of the language in the book, which she said she would expect to hear from soldiers in the heat of combat.
With the help of her friend and web designer, Rita Barnett, Wright hopes to have a Facebook account soon.
“They were very nice to her,” Barnett said of the publishing company. “They talked to her many times.”
Copies of the book, if purchased from Wright, are $15 for hardcover and $10 for paperback, plus postage and handling. She will sign all the books. They can be purchased at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It costs more, she said, from a bookstore or online. “I’m not trying to make any money from it,” Wright said. “I just want to get it distributed.”
However, she admits it has been suggested that maybe the story should be turned into a movie.
“Some people who have read it, said I should contact Tom Hanks about doing a movie,” she said. “That’s the kind of movie he does.”
Ironically, none of this may have happened if it wasn’t for some bad luck.
For years, Wright ran the “Wright Place” antique store in Hinckley, which burned down a few years ago.
“If it wasn’t for that fire, I’d probably still be there,” she said.