CROWN POINT | Crown Point author Rosemary Gard has woven her family's Croatian history into a tale that eventually will bring its heroine to Northwest Indiana.
It's a story pulled from Gard's past as the daughter of immigrant parents growing up in the Glen Park neighborhood of Gary in the 1950s.
Gard's "Destiny Denied" came out this year, the second in a planned trilogy of books that began with "Destiny's Dowery" in 2008.
The books follow red-haired heroine Katya from the Croatian countryside in the 1800s along a journey filled with adventure and intrigue.
A third book in the series, with a working title of "Destiny's Dance," brings Katya to Gary in 1912.
"Croatian was my first language," Gard said. Her father came to the U.S. at age 15, and after a stint working in a coal mine in the eastern United States, settled in Gary and worked in a local steel mill, Gard said.
The family home on Ridge Road, between Pennsylvania and Delaware streets in Glen Park, was located in a cultural melting pot.
"I grew up in the best neighborhood," Gard said of neighbors who traced their roots to Italy, Poland, Greece and several Eastern European countries.
"We had a strong Croatian community," Gard said. Then Rosemary Babich, she was named Croatian Queen in Gary's Golden Jubilee celebration in 1956.
Gard knew from childhood she wanted to write, but her journey took a few turns along the way.
She and husband, Bob Gard, operated an art gallery and coffee shop, which later evolved into a boutique, in the Miller section of Gary in the 1960s. The couple later had shops in a restaurant and retail venture in downtown Crown Point in the 1980s.
But it was a three-month stay in Croatia in the 1950s that provided the grist for her books, she said. Life for her relatives there had gone nearly unchanged for decades, Gard said.
"I slept on a straw mattress and washed clothes in the river," Gard said. "All the details in the book - I lived it, I saw it."
Gard didn't know what to expect when the first book in the trilogy came out.
"When I first wrote it, I thought it would appeal only to people of Slavic heritage," Gard said. Instead, she's gotten feedback from readers of all heritages, she said.
At age 73, she plans to keep on writing and hopes to live another 30 years.
"I can't cash in yet," Gard said.