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?