Grable brings love and loss to her hometown

You can go home again.

In fact, Billie Gable does it every few weeks.

But Saturday was a first: She was in Port Orchard for her first hometown book signing.

Grable, 62, recently self-published “The Weeping Willow Sings,” a fantasy-fiction hybrid about a teenage girl who believes her father is still alive after his suicide.

The book’s description describes it as “a moving depiction about the secrets families keep, the tragic side of mental illness and the bond between a father and daughter.”

“When I first started, it was nonfiction,” said the 1969 South Kitsap graduate, who now lives in Kirkland. “Then I didn’t want people to know the dirty business of my life.

Still, “when I went to fiction, it was still 80 percent of my life.”

The life of a Grable being well known is nothing new, though. Not in Port Orchard.

Her father, Jack, was a city councilman and volunteer fireman for 26 years — and the city’s 2002 Man of the Year. Following his death in 2011, a special flag flew over City Hall in his honor.

And she used to tell people that her mom was famous pinup girl Betty Grable, because, after all, they had the same name.

“And we all have the Grable face,” she said. “(People say) ‘Ah, you’re a Grable, aren’t you?’ to our kids.”

And while she wouldn’t mind being the city’s next famous Grable — the family moved to Port Orchard in 1961 — she’s also perfectly content to just wander quietly around the town she knows so well.

“I love coming back here and just seeing how much the place has changed and also being able to see those things that are still the same,” she said. “It’s a great little town.”

Grable, who has worked at Microsoft since 1990, said that while she sent queries to some literary agents, she ultimately decided to publish “The Weeping Willow Sings” through Create Space, a division of Amazon.

“I’m 62,” she said, “If you’ve got one book … They’re more interested in the next J.K. Rowling, or something like that.”

Being her own front man gives her the opportunity to promote “The Weeping Willow Sings” through social media and book signings.

She was especially pleased by the turnout at Whiskey Gulch Coffee Co.

“You see people you have not seen in years and years and years, especially with something like this,” she said.

And most importantly, her mom was able to attend. Betty Grable still lives in Port Orchard.

“I wanted to be able to give her a copy of the book ...” she said. “She was so thrilled.”

Grable said that an aunt with schizophrenia helped shape her book’s plot.

“I’ve always been fascinated with that kind of thing,” she said. “I’ve known a lot of people who have been very depressed. With suicide, it’s such a final thing and it just completely tears people apart when this person is gone.”

She acknowledged it’s not an easy topic to tackle. One reader was unsure she could finish the book because it brought back some bad memories.

“But she said she finished it and just wanted to thank me for doing it because I got a lot of healing out of it,” she said. “If it can touch someone in that way … that’s really what it’s about.”

Grable, an avid baker and doting grandmother, said her full-time job at MSN prevents her from setting a release date for her next book — a historical novel about four women who graduated in the late 1960 — but it is in the works.

“It’s about the secrets that tore them apart are what bring them back together 20 years later,” she said. “It’s not close to being finished, but I could finish it.”

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