Wicked Wednesday: #Inspo

Wickeds, this month we’re going to talk about research. Let’s talk about how inspiration can inspire us. Have you ever been inspired to write a book or even a series because of some research you’d done? Were you looking for a way into a subject, or was it a surprise?

Edith/Maddie: I love this topic! My Quaker Midwife Mysteries involve lots of research into the late nineteenth century. I’d finished writing Turning the Tide, centering on women’s suffrage and the 1888 presidential election, when I happened on an article about midwife Ann Trow Lohman, dubbed “The Wickedest Woman in New York,” who also gave out abortive drugs and performed abortions. I realized contraception and abortion had to be the theme of my next book in the series and dove into the research. Charity’s Burden won the Agatha Award for Best Historical Novel this year, so listen to your inspirations, kids.

Jessie: I totally agree with Edith that it is a great topic! I love, love, love the research part of the work to the point I almost feel guilty about it! All of my Beryl and Edwina books have sprung from research. I begin all of my historical novels by wandering about in any sources that intrigue me and just see where things go. For Murder Cuts the Mustard I took the tidbit that the Derby results were broadcast for the first time via wireless and the fact that at the same time there was a severe drought as the beginning of that mystery. My upcoming Murder Comes to Call was dreamed up because of the 1921 UK Census and the unfair treatment of Irish soldiers during WWI.

Barb: I love research, too and I love to begin with narrative nonfiction books. For Iced Under, I knew my protagonist Julia Snowden’s mother’s family had made their money in the ice trade. It seemed like such a crazy thing to me that in the 19th century New Englanders shipped ice all over the world. But I didn’t know a thing about it. It turned out two historical characters from the ice trade, Frederic Tudor at the beginning and Charlie Morse at the end, were as colorful in real life as characters can be. I wove their histories and personalities into the mystery. The ninth Maine Clambake book coming in February, Shucked Apart, is about oyster farming and I loved doing that research, too.

Sherry: A couple of years ago my friend Clare (you can read my tribute to her here) handed me a folder full of articles clipped from the Northwest Florida Daily Newspaper. One of the articles was about a ghost ship (an abandon ship) that washed up onto the beach in Destin, Florida. It then went back out to sea and then came back on shore further west. The story fascinated me and set me off researching stories of ghosts ships. I ended up incorporating those stories into the second Chloe Jackson Sea Glass Saloon mystery, A Time to Swill. I’ve also had a lot of fun talking to bartenders and reading books about bar tending.

Liz: Such a fun topic! Years ago in my last reporting job, I got to do a lot of research on an old state hospital in the town I covered. The Norwich State Hospital a psychiatric hospital, closed down in the 80s and basically turned everyone out onto the streets and the property was left abandoned. I was fascinated by this – I had always been fascinated by old asylums, and having one in my midst was so enticing. In the mid-2000s, a developer was trying to buy the property and turn it into an amusement park, which was fodder for a lot of stories. As a result, my interest ramped up and I ended up creating a scenario for a suspense novel based on the abandoned asylum. Hopefully I’ll finish the book someday and you’ll get to read it! In the meantime, here are some photo galleries I found of the hospital and the underground tunnels…creepy but cool.

Julie: What great stories, Wickeds. Liz, I want to read that book! For me, research often helps me figure out my way into a book. I went to the American Clock and Watch Museum when I started the Clock Shop series. Visiting a clock tower completely changed the 3rd book in that series, Chime and Punishment. My Garden Squad series is based in Goosebush, MA which is a fictional version of Duxbury, MA. I’m figuring out the 5th book now, and am going to the town cemetery for inspiration. Who knows what other ideas I’ll come up with during my field trip?

Readers, do you like learning about the research that inspires us?

25 Thoughts

  1. Love learning about how stories are inspired. Liz, the photos are great – hard to believe that electroshock was still used in the 1970s!

  2. Most definitely! It’s you inspiration and the attention to detail and facts that make the stories come to life. What could be better than learning while enjoying reading one of your favorite authors! We are never too old to learn regardless of in what form. Call it the retirees easy way to learn – letting someone else do the leg work. I’ve often found something so interesting in a book, that I continue on with my own research.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. I love hearing research stories. Mine:

    – while the German-American Bund was on it’s way out in late 1942, there was a cell in Buffalo at the time (THE ENEMY WE DON’T KNOW)

    – greyhound racing (the as-yet untitled fifth Laurel Highlands book, due out August 2022)

    – the Polish government in exile visited Buffalo in early December 1942 (THE STORIES WE TELL, out February 2021)

    I’ll be jumping into more research – both family and about the grain elevators/canals in Buffalo – for the third Homefront Mystery (THE LESSONS WE LEARN, due out February 2022).

  4. While fabrication of facts can be fun in fantasy or science fiction, I want my mysteries to be based in some sort of actual/factual storyline. I agree with others here that learning about such things as “clocks” and “the 1921 UK census” enhance the book’s appeal…at least for me. Keep up the research ladies, who knows where your next inspiration for plots will come from and I for one am intrigued and can’t wait to find out.

    PS I have a friend who is transcribing her mom and dad’s prolific correspondence by letters to one another from the early 1900’s. She is learning a lot about life during their early years. And, I just read about a man who is collecting WWII letters at http://www.warletters.us. His family lost all their photographs and letters from relatives and friends in a house fire and it started him on a search for family information that ended up with a cousin sending him a letter he wrote to his wife in April, 1945 about liberating the Buchenwald concentration camp.

  5. Cozies are so much more interesting if based on some historical (or even current) event or location. It’s the difference between the cookie-cutter cozies and the really good ones. The Wickeds know how to do it right.

    I have often continued my own research into topics that are brought up in cozies or other books. I love learning and, as Kay said, it’s the easy way for us old folks to learn! Thanks for continuing my education.

  6. I always enjoy hearing about what inspired the books I read. It’s amazing how a spark of an idea can turn into a book and what parts of that research make it into the book and what parts just color the action.

      1. That is a perfect example. It makes the book more interesting without slowing the story down in the slightest. And I have some information I never would have learned about otherwise.

  7. Hearing what inspires you and your writing makes reading the books even richer (if possible). It really inspires me to do my own research into topics I had no idea I would find so interesting.

  8. I love research stories and I love doing research myself. You can learn such fascinating facts while researching subjects. I’ve always liked reading random facts of about anything.

  9. Yes, I love learning things in books and hearing the true facts in an afterword or an interview or blog. When I first read the Tarzan series, I looked up everything I could in the encyclopedias. Now I sometimes look things up on the Internet. Stay safe and well.

  10. I read Joanne Freeman’s book “Affairs of Honor” about dueling among politicians in the early United States and wrote a short story of the same title dealing with wizard duels in the same setting. Came out in Abyss and Apex about a decade ago.

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