News Flash: Jay Roberts is Joyce’s lucky winner! Jay, please check your email, and congratulations.
Edith/Maddie, still hoping for signs of spring north of Boston.
New books are a good sign, though, and I’m super delighted to welcome Joyce St. Anthony – whom some of you know as Joyce Tremel – with the first book in a new historical mystery series! Front Page Murder begins the Homefront News series and it sounds fabulous. My copy dropped on my Kindle on release day earlier this week, and I’m excited to read it.
Here’s the blurb:
Irene Ingram has written for her father’s newspaper, the Progress Herald, ever since she could grasp a pencil. Now she’s editor in chief, which doesn’t sit well with the men in the newsroom. But proving her journalistic bona fides is the least of Irene’s worries when crime reporter Moe Bauer, on the heels of a hot tip, turns up dead at the foot of his cellar stairs.
An accident? That’s what Police Chief Walt Turner thinks, and Irene is inclined to agree until she finds the note Moe discreetly left on her desk. He was on to a big story, he wrote. The robbery she’d assigned him to cover at Markowicz Hardware turned out to be something far more devious. A Jewish store owner in a small, provincial town, Sam Markowicz received a terrifying message from a stranger. Moe suspected that Sam is being threatened not only for who he is…but for what he knows.
Tenacious Irene senses there’s more to the Markowicz story, which she is all but certain led to Moe’s murder. When she’s not filling up column inches with the usual small-town fare—locals in uniform, victory gardens, and scrap drives—she and her best friend, scrappy secretary Peggy Reardon, search for clues. If they can find the killer, it’ll be a scoop to stop the presses. But if they can’t, Irene and Peggy may face an all-too-literal deadline.
RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
Thanks for having me back Wickeds! It’s always great to visit.
I’m often asked how much research goes into writing historical fiction. The short answer is: A LOT. The next question is usually “It’s fiction. Can’t you just make it all up?” Well I could, but then it wouldn’t exactly be historical.
Historical fiction, whether it’s a romance, a mystery, or a thriller, has to have some basis in fact. Sure, I invent the characters and the plot, but the historical parts should be as close to true as possible. FRONT PAGE MURDER is set in a small fictional town in Pennsylvania in May of 1942.
Pittsburgh was a critical manufacturing hub during WWII so I decided Progress would be in that general area. Before the war, the fictional Tabor Ironworks had made parts for the automobile industry and when Roosevelt suspended car production, the factory converted to making parts for tanks and ships. Although Tabor only exists in my mind and on paper, the part about Roosevelt is true. Many industries converted to manufacturing material for the war. Auto plants converted to making airplanes, tanks, and Jeeps. Shipbuilders, like Dravo and American Bridge in Pittsburgh made war ships and the all-important LSTs (Landing Ship Tank, or as soldiers like to call them Long Slow Targets). Without LSTs, there would have been no landing at Normandy.
Since my main character, Irene runs a newspaper, I had to get other facts straight. I downloaded a day by day timeline for the month of May 1942. Thank heavens for the internet! I also made good use of the online Google news archives where I could see actual newspapers for each day. I made headlines for the beginning of each chapter that would have appeared in Irene’s newspaper, the Progress Herald. If something big happened on a particular day, I made sure Irene talked about it with her co-workers.
Irene, her younger sister, and her mother often listened to the radio in the evening. I found a radio and movie guide online—sort of a precursor to the TV Guide. I was able to find exactly what radio show they would have listened to at a certain time. I also researched the popular songs and movies that were out in May 1942. I couldn’t very well have Irene’s sister listening to a Frank Sinatra record that hadn’t been released yet!
Rationing was another thing I had to research. Not everything was rationed at the same time. Rubber tires, automobiles, and sugar were some of the first to be rationed. People didn’t drive as much. If a driver blew a tire, there was no way to replace it. No new cars were being made.
With the sugar ration, a family was only allowed a half pound per person per week. It sounds like a lot of sugar, but it’s really not—a half pound is barely a cup (I measured and weigh). Most people baked from scratch and there were no artificial sweeteners. If someone baked a cake and made a pitcher of lemonade, that would likely use the rations of two or more people in that household.
One thing I almost forgot to check was the weather. I only realized it when I’d finished the draft right before I sent it to my editor. Even though Progress isn’t a real place, I have it located near Pittsburgh. Some eagle-eyed reader would surely have noticed if I had written that it was sunny on May 20 instead of rainy. After doing some digging, I found weather charts for the area (thank you NOAA!) and was able to add some brief mentions of the weather. Whew!
Now I’m just waiting for someone to find something I missed. As hard as I’ve tried to get things right, it’s inevitable that I missed some little detail. Just do me a favor—don’t go looking for one!
Readers: does it bother you if an author doesn’t get something right? Does it depend on how wrong? Or do you forgive some things if it’s a good story? I’ll send one US commenter a copy of the new book!
Joyce St. Anthony was a police secretary for ten years and more than once envisioned the demise of certain co-workers, but settled on writing as a way to keep herself out of jail. In addition to the Homefront News Mysteries, she is the author of the Brewing Trouble Mysteries, written under her own name, Joyce Tremel. She lives in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania with her husband.
I read books for the stories not to nitpick. I like a good historical mystery and I don’t fact check. I just want to read for my pleasure, to take me away from my troubles for a little while. This time period is interesting and I look forward to reading it. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway! pgenest57 at aol dot com
I read for pleasure, too. If I’m engrossed in the story, I’m likely to miss the little mistakes.
JOYCE: Congratulations on the new series and book!
When I read historical novels, I don’t nitpick about the accuracy of historical details unless they pull me out of the story. And since I don’t live in the US, I probably would not catch any minor errors.
But I am curious how common it was to have a woman running a newspaper in the 1940s?
Looking forward to reading Front Page Murder (I have a Netgalley ARC).
And like EDITH, I am waiting for signs of spring. We still have plenty of snow/ice on the ground here in Ottawa. Another storm is forecasted to bring 7-12 cm (2.5-5 in) of snow tonight/Saturday.
Thanks! As far as I know, there weren’t many newspapers run by women. There were quite a few women reporters, and even a few war correspondents, although most of them weren’t permitted to get close to the action.
We’re expecting snow here tonight and tomorrow morning. Right now the forecast is for 4 to 8 inches. We live on a ridge, so it will be the high end of the forecast.
Congratulations on your latest book, Joyce. Kudos on the fact checking. I read dozens of book reviews each month, and see way too many rants about facts that don’t match history or setting.
I’m not a fact checker and consider the information given in the story to just be part of the story, but you surely do a ton of research for your books, amazing! And such a crucial time period in world history!
It was definitely a crucial time in history. It’s my favorite era, so that makes the research much less painful.
Joyce, congratulations on the first book in this series. I read a number of stories set during WWII so this is a series that will probably interest me.
As to the question about an author getting something wrong. I suppose it would bother me a tiny bit if something I knew was clearly wrong. One book I read had Maine on the Pacific Ocean (YIKES!). But where I’m far from an expert on a lot of things, even if an author gets something wrong, it’s not likely I’d catch it. So I’d just read whatever was in the story and move on to the next page.
Maine on the Pacific Ocean? Wow. That person must have been sleeping in geography class!
I was honored to read an ARC of this book and it is fabulous! So you don’t have to enter me in the giveaway.
Joyce, your research and mine sounds a lot a like – except I’m researching in 1943. And yes, thank goodness for the internet.
The degree to which something bothers me depends on the severity of the mistake. Especially if it’s something that would easily be found by a simple search. But I’m likely to overlook obscure mistakes especially if the story is good – like yours.
And thank you for remembering weather! I read something once, set in western New York, that had spring coming in early March. Not likely. LOL
I appreciate you reading and blurbing the book! I can’t imagine having to go to actual archives and libraries for research. Being able to do that from the comfort of my desk is a huge bonus.
Love your attention to detail! And yes, I think it makes a big difference – especially to those old enough to remember either personally or through stories related to them by others. Of course no one is going to be 100% perfect, no one is. It’s more of a detail as to what and how much is accurate I think. A reader can tell if an author’s done their research and one that’s gone above and beyond makes overlooking some small detail very easy to overlook. As a general rule, if a story is well told the “facts” just blend into the story. It’s when something is so wrong to the reader that bells go off sounding that something’s not right that has them shaking their head wondering what were they thinking.
Absolutely LOVE the cover on “Front Page Murder”! The story sound like a fabulous one too. It’s on my TBR list and I can’t wait to dive in reading. Thank you for the chance to win a copy. I would love the opportunity to read and review. Shared and hoping.
2clowns at arkansas dot net
I love the cover, too! And wait until you see the cover for the next book, Death on a Deadline. It’s so pretty!
There’s a fine line between not enough historical detail and too much. There was a lot I had to leave out so it wouldn’t sound like a history book.
Congratulations on the new series, Joyce! I’m a pretty forgiving reader and would never think to check the weather in someone’s book. It amazes me the amount of research you did and the story will be better for it!
I wouldn’t have checked the weather either if I was reading. But you know somewhere out there is a weather geek historian who would have called me on it, lol.
As we are losing the greatest generation it’s wonderful to see the resurgence of books set in the WWII era. I’m looking forward to reading Front Page Murder.
I’m generally forgiving of historical mistakes unless they pull me out of the plot. I do confess that some statements or premises have sent me to google and there are times I’ve learned new information, or at least been exposed to a different point of view.
I check Google sometimes when I’m reading too, especially if it’s particularly interesting or doesn’t sound right.
It’s sad that there aren’t many WWII vets left. Every time I see one I make sure to go and talk to them for a few minutes. Several years ago we met Bill Guarnere (Band of Brothers) in Gettysburg. He signed our Band of Brothers DVD. At around 90 years old, he was still a hoot. Exactly like how he was portrayed in the miniseries. My parents were from that era. I wish they had lived longer so I could talk to them about it.
I think it depends on what’s wrong. I don’t mind if an author takes some license with facts but if it’s a glaring error like someone in a book set in the 1960s pulling out an iPhone it would bother me.
We’re so used to cell phones now. It was surprisingly hard to remember Irene couldn’t just whip out her phone to call someone. She had to call from her office, home, or pay phone.
Congratulations on this new series! It sounds like a great read.
I love a good plot! If a few details are forgotten or slightly incorrect that doesn’t factor in my overall opinion of the story.
Carole Lynn Jones
Thanks! I probably stress a little too much about getting it right. There was one obscure thing that I thought I should have put in the second book after I had already turned it in. It would have involved a complete timeline change. I was glad my editor told me to forget about it, that if I hadn’t found it earlier, no one else would notice.
For me, the story is most important, so I’m not going to look up the weather on a given day in 1942 and complain if the author got it wrong. But I will notice obvious anachronisms around things like technology, beliefs, and attitudes, and those throw me out of the story.
Thanks for sharing some of your research! It’s always interesting to see what happens behind the page, so to speak.
We’re so used to today’s technology, etc. it takes conscious effort to not include things that we take for granted now.
Wow, so interesting to read about your research! My grandmother used to talk about their victory garden. I don’t nitpick too much, but sometimes Google things to fund out more when I see an interesting bit in a book. Congrats on the new release!
I do that too, also look for images of things like cars & clothing mentioned in a book.
What a thrill! FRONT PAGE MURDER!!! This book is just my perfect cuppa tea!! If the story is engaging and the characters are well developed and believable, then there is total forgiveness if some information is not quite ‘historical’ :-)…we are reading fiction for our enjoyment after all! Thank you for the opportunity to connect with you Joyce, and for sharing your reading talents with us readers. Congratulations! Email: Luis at ole dot travel
Interesting to read about your research! I really like the vintage look of the book cover! I definitely read for pleasure so it doesn’t bother me at all, I don’t nitpick.
Congrats on the new release! Thank you for the chance!
Thanks! I’m very happy with the cover!
I read for enjoyment, not to look for errors! Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, I love to visit different times and places from the comfort of my own living room. Learning about the research process of authors fascinates me, so I enjoyed reading about your Internet searches. Another thing I find interesting is when an author purposely changes history – for example, Jack Finney set Time and Again a couple of years before the Dakota was built & explains why in a note. Your book sounds like one I will love & look forward to reading!
I just sent copy edits back on book 2 and included a Note to the Reader because I took a few liberties with the war bond rallies.
I liked seeing the history of Pittsburgh. You see, I live approximately 30-40 miles away from Pittsburgh.
Love the book cover, title, excerpt. I so would love to read this book in print format and also review it.
I would love to read this book just to see how Irene makes out as Editor In Chief with the men on her case.
Yes sometimes it bugs me when people get things wrong. Doesn’t matter how wrong it’s wrong especially if I near the place like Pittsburgh. Yes, I can forgive the writer for getting things wrong if the story is good.
Sounds like you did your research on Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh weather is crazy and can get all 4 seasons in one day and yes that’s actually happened. Did you mention sports teams, that Pittsburgh is the city of bridges? It’s OK if you didn’t.
OH I’m so intrigued to want to read your book in print. It sounds and looks like a good read. Can’t wait to read this book in print.
One reason I set books in or near Pittsburgh is because I’m a native Yinzer. That’s one less thing I have to research, lol.
I have seen authors not get something write again and again. No, it does not bother me at all. I suppose that it would bother me if it concerned something that was very personal to me, but so far that has not happened to me.
It doesn’t bother me if an author gets some things wrong unless it’s something very obvious. I would never know what the weather was like at any certain time. I do like to learn about history though so hope the important facts are correct. This book sounds very interesting.
This sounds so fascinating. I love historical fiction mysteries, especially when the research has been so comprehensive. You really did your homework and I”m sure it will show in your book. Yes, mistakes bother me. Little things I can let go. It really doesn’t make a difference to me if it rained on a certain date (unless it affects the story); larger ones to bother me. I have to wonder how serious the author was in researching if an event just couldn’t have occurred as written. I stop believing even the correct things.
Fortunately, as far as the actual weather was all I had to do was add a sentence like, “Irene grabbed her umbrella when she left the house.”
welcome today. this is a wonderful cover. and the story sounds great. if there are a few grammar or spelling errors I am not too worried. it is when the whole book is like that, that I have a tough time and sometimes will just put it down. struggling through to read an incorrected book is just way too tough when I want to sit and relax
Congrats on the new release and series!
I worry about the big things in a historical mystery. Like if you had your characters watching I Love Lucy, I’d call you out on it. However, I’m willing to give author’s artistic license when it comes to weather (unless they have an unusual snow storm in July, for example) or what night they are listening to certain radio programs. However, that kind of research from the author definitely makes it feel more authentic when I sit down to read it.
Hi Mark! It was fun looking up what was playing on the radio on certain nights. I even found an actual recording of a show Irene was listening to in Front Page Murder.
Hi Joyce! Welcome back to the Wickeds. I value accuracy in historical fiction in any genre because you don’t know what kinds of impressions your brain might be picking up along the way. On the other hand, I will often look up actual events I see depicted in movies, TV or books and learn more about them. I also value that experience.
Thanks for having me! If I hadn’t had a book to write, I would have spent even more time looking up some things. I fell down the old rabbit hole more than once.
I really enjoy reading historical mysteries and I think the historical facts should be accurate. It’s very easy these days to fact check historical events so they should be portrayed correctly.
Thank heavens for the internet!
Best of luck with your series. It looks like a good one! I overlook small mistakes, but did one time see that an author put a mall in a small Western town where our family once lived and knew right away that was wrong.
Thanks! That would have been easy for the author to look up, too.
Congratulations on the new book. As long as it isn’t some blatantly ridiculous mistake I can overlook it as long as the books good.i certainly wouldn’t overlook snowing in the rain forest or daffodils blooming in the antarctic.
Thanks! Yeah, that would be a little hard to ignore!
Huge congratulations! I always marvel at the amount of work writers of historical fiction have to do. The attention to detail is so important, but so much work. So happy that you have a new series out in the world.
Thanks. It’s fun research, though. That makes a difference. I’m happy, too!
Congratulations on your new book! No it doesn’t bother me at all, unless it is something very obvious. Have a great weekend and stay safe.
It usually does not bother me. Afterall, I am reading a book that is fiction. If it is something that is very obvious, it may have me pause. I would keep on reading the book. Thank you so much for sharing.
Congratulations on the new release! It probably would not bother me. I read to escape so what really matters to me is that I enjoy the characters and the plot. If a historical author makes some small mistakes it is not a big deal to me. I am not someone who goes around fast checking everything the author puts in a story. That would take away my enjoyment of the book.
I love historical fiction. I probably wouldn’t notice something that the author got slightly wrong.
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