Weaving Threads

Congratulations Melissa and Judy! You are the ARC winners! Jessie will email you to arrange to send your copy.

Jessie: In New Hampshire where the weather is turning distinctly autumnal.

One of the most interesting aspects of writing historical fiction for me is the research involved and having the pleasure of discovering where it will lead and the sorts of storylines that it will end up suggesting. Often I find a surprising number of parallels with the present day.

I generally start each of my historical novels with an idea of approximately which month the story will take place within and I use it as a lauching point for researching events that were current at that time. It never fails to provide me with all manner of interesting bits of information around which to build a narrative. Often the most seemingly unrelated threads seem to suggest themselves as building blocks for a twisty and tangly mystery.

For my upcoming Beryl and Edwina mystery, Murder Comes to Call, which I planned to take place in June, 1921, I ran across the information that the UK Census was conducted at that time. Like the U.S. 2020 Census, the process needed to be conducted differently than it had in the past, albeit for different reasons. While the pandemic is requiring adjustments to the count this time, concern for civil unrest did so in the the U.K. in 1921.

Economic conditions in the U.K. during the post-war period, along with sweeping cultural changes, led to a push by many members of sociey for reforms to the rights and privileges for workers. Individual unions began working together to form even larger collectives and they weilded more power than ever before. The government at that time held serious concerns that enormous numbers of union members would refuse to participate in the census as a way to bargain for better pay and conditions.

That, in itself, was enough to suggest to my mind some intriguing possibilities for a mystery. After all, tensions running high are always fertile ground for murder and mayhem. But, because I never seem to like to stop the research, I kept poking along through a variety of sources and realised that Fathers’ Day was the same date as the census was to be conducted. All sorts of possibilities combined as those two bits of information swirled together in my brain.

Before long an entire story had constructed itself in my mind’s eye. I could see the characters who would be involved, the concerns both officials and members of the public faced and a number of reasons why criminality would spring readily from such events. It was such fun to drop Beryl and Edwina down into the middle of all of it.

I have thought of the book and its upcoming release every time I spot a census sign as I am out walking my dog or driving past on errands. It feels as though the past and the present are weaving over and under and through each other in constant and delightful ways. Well, at least it does if the crimes stay safely on the page!

Readers, are you ever surprised at the way different threads of a story pull together? Do you find yourself thinking about how history repeats itself? I have two advance reader copies of Murder Comes to Call to give away to randomly selected commenters.

35 Thoughts

  1. I love this, Jessie, and have had the same experience. After my second historical was set at the Fourth of July, it made sense to put the next book in the fall. And bingo, 1880 was a Presidential election year. Add the fact that Quaker women were at the forefront of the women’s suffrage movement, and bingo, I had the backdrop and tensions of Turning the Tide! Can’t wait to read your new B&E.

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  2. The merging of story threads always fascinates me, it’s impossible for any event to occur in a vacuum, but how one event feeds others, and how the author uses those events makes every well-written historical eye-opening and educational – in an entertaining way.

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    1. I totally agree about the vacuum! I think that is one of the most interesting things! So often the actual events are strikingly similar but the other things occurring simultaneously give them a different flavor or intensity. Time changes the attitudes around them too and somehow they are just not as similar as they seemed on the surface!

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  3. Having lived long enough to see things not only repeat themselves, but often more than once. There’s the fashion industry for sure, but people’s way of thinking and acting/reacting also see to run in cycles. Sometimes we are around to see them repeat themselves which to me is very intriguing and dumbfounding all at the same time. Makes one wonder at times why we can’t learn lessons from the past instead of repeating them.

    Love when a bit of history, even if just a thin thread, works it’s way woven into a story and interesting to see how the author approaches it. I’ve even found myself doing a bit more research on a subject that peaks my interest while reading a good book. Basically, how can an author write a book and not include some form of history – be it way past or recent past? After all, we are all made up of not only our past but the past of others. History makes us who we are even if we make an acknowledgment to it with determination to change it going forward.

    Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to win a copy of “Murder Comes to Call”. Love your books and love Beryl and Edwina. Shared and hoping to be the very fortunate one selected.

    Have a great week! Be safe, stay healthy and have a little adventure – even if through the pages of good book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

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  4. I have found myself often reading a book even if it is not a new publication, that speaks to the present situation in my life or in life in general. Right now I am reading Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy. The women did their work in somewhat harsh conditions for less pay than the men in the military who were working along side them. It took some strong women to overcome the perception that “only bad women join the service” as one codebreaker’s mother told her. The work the women did was invaluable and helped win the war. Genevieve Grotjan “…made a key break that enabled the Allies to eavesdrop on Japanese diplomatic communications for the entirety of World War II.” The Battle of Midway would have turned out much differently if the codebreakers had not been at work learning about the Japanese movements. Oh, so much more…this is a fabulous book about women that history has failed to recognize. And, today we have women who are at work trying to find a vaccine for the COVID virus and those who are working in the medical profession saving those who are sick. Women have made a difference historically and continue to influence our world for the better. Makes me proud!

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  5. Jessie, I love the image of weaving the threads. So often it’s the combination of threads that make beautiful weaving or embroidery or knitting. Stephen King, I think in On Writing, says it’s often the combination that leads to the idea for the central theme of a work. So in Carrie, he read somewhere that telekinesis most often attaches to adolescent girls. He combined that with the bullying he had witnessed as a high school teacher. It’s the combination that is at the center of the idea.

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  6. I really like history. That is one of the reasons I enjoy historical books so much. I was introduced to the sub-genre of historical mysteries through a publisher giveaway. I found Victoria Thompson, CS Harris, & Anne Hubbard this way. I was hooked! I’ve since discovered so many other authors. My TBR list and beside stack just keeps getting bigger! Then I found your group on Facebook. I just love all the information, interesting facts, writers insights and general fun “stuff” I keep learning. Thank you all.

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  7. Threads come together in ways I don’t expect all the time. It’s like magic.

    My father has been reading the letters of Thomas Merton and he texted me the other night that they could be about the current times. The more things change…

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  8. The history is so much fun to research because there are always nuggets of something unexpected or mysterious or so oddly compelling that you have to look at it and ask more questions. You pull them together wonderfully with Beryl and Edwina.

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  9. I like it when all the threads tie together at the end, but it has to be realistic. Sometimes, credulity is really stretched beyond recognition, e.g., too many coincidences. But you, Jessie, have it down pat. Looking forward to reading this Edwina and Beryl.

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  10. Before he passed (back in 2007) my husband was saying how much the USA, even then, reminded him of Germany in the 1930s. Sadly, things have NOT improved, only gotten worse.

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  11. Love that you are so generous in giving away your creations. Thank you for writing such wonderful works of art.
    My leaves are starting to turn in Massachusetts so I am sure your leaves are starting to show off as well. Such a pretty time of the year.b

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  12. I love when I’m reading a historical type cozy that I can not only read into the research the author has done, but feel it as well. Oh yes, history does truly repeats itself, you’d think we, as “smart” humans would not repeat, repeat, repeat without some vision of caution

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