Today I’ve got my dear friend Susan Koenig visiting. She’s here to talk about her newest release, 1900. As you will see, doing a historical story isn’t as easy as sitting down at the computer and writing, it takes a lot of research.
Thank you Lindsay and Dakota for allowing me to ramble on your blog about the research I conducted for my recently published short story which begins onDecember 31, 1899.
Genre: Historical, Romance, Paranormal
The right love, the wrong time
December 31, 1899. At a dinner, hosted by her landlady, to celebrate the new century, Kathryn St. Clair meets sophisticated and handsome Gideon Thomas. He is a new lodger at the boarding house where she has settled since arriving in the city for a teaching position. His air of mystery speaks to her romantic imagination.
Later, over a game of Whist, they pay more attention to each other than to the cards on the table. Her honesty reaches out to him; her rare innocence touches his dark soul.
Together they visit several city amusements. But when, in her naiveté, Kathryn demands explanations for Gideon’s irrational comings-and-goings, wondering if he is a gentleman after all, his secrets forbid him from answering. He fears the truth would throw her into madness, and that her intelligence would not allow for his reality.
If they don’t conquer their conflicting natures, their new love will die, leaving Gideon to live with the bitter consequences of his misconceptions.
Imagine throwing a big lavish dinner party without nipping out to the specialty shops for out of season fruits and vegetables. Or imagine an after dinner entertainment without wine, whiskey or liqueurs.
Where would single people live?
How did people speak?
These are some of the questions I had to consider when writing an historical story.
When I planned the menu for the celebratory dinner on December 31, a friend reminded me that my original fresh vegetables would not likely be available in 1900. Instead, a root vegetable would be served. Hence beets was substituted for fresh vegetables.
I decided to use Whist as the after dinner entertainment. To better understand how to place the characters around the table, I looked up how the game is played and the rules.
Not many homes would have had indoor plumbing but I decided that the boarding house would have a communal bathing room and also a water closet on the first floor. If you’ve ever stayed at a bed and breakfast, especially in Europe where bathrooms are shared, you’ll know what I mean.
Naturally I investigated the fashions of the times. The women’s bloomers and the men’s blazers caught my fancy and so I incorporated them into the bike riding scene. With the little dig that Gideon would not care much for the bloomers.
The restaurant scene originally had cantaloupe on the menu. And I did get that from an actual menu I found for the period. However, again, like the beets, cantaloupe would not have been available in January when the story takes place. More research ensued to determine another appetizer for Kathryn.
This scene is actually a portion of the bicycle scene referred to above.
He made sure they rode slowly at first in order for her to acclimatize to the rented machine. When he satisfied himself that she could handle it easily, he shouted out a challenge. “Let us race!”
Kathryn loved the sound of his laughter. With his merry eyes, he looked like a young lad in his navy blue flannel blazer with bright brass buttons. So different from his usual black suits.
In the midst of the contest, both laughing and teasing each other, she thought, I feel like one of my students. He abruptly came to a stand still and turned around to speak. Luckily she had stopped as well or she might have taken a header.
“I have to leave. I am sorry.”
“What do you mean? Leave?”
Kathryn regarded her surroundings–him and the others in the park. Everything seemed the same as it had five minutes earlier. Nothing had changed; why did he say he had to leave? Her eyes turned to him.
He could see the puzzlement, confusion, disappointment and, yes anger, in those blueberry eyes, with a hint of violet. Beautiful eyes, that at this moment stared at him as if he was the devil himself.
“My apologies but I must go. The bicycles are paid for. Please take them back to the shop and I will see you later.” Having said that, Kathryn’s glazed eyes watched him briskly strode to the park’s exit.
She shook off her paralysis and, barely aware of her actions, clumsily walked the two machines back to the shop which happened to be near where she stood.
“I’m sorry, but the gentleman had to leave suddenly,” she sputtered in explanation to the merchant.
“I hope all is well.”
“Oh yes I’m sure it is.” She mouthed the words but did not believe them.
Kathryn trekked back to the boarding house, blind to the still lovely afternoon and the people enjoying the weather; blind to the white clouds streaming in the pale blue sky, the geese marching in formation honking away, the sun reflecting off the lake. She barely heard a mother call her son. “Magnus! Where are you now?” The woman laughed as she hunted for the boy. But laughter had no place in Kathryn’s world at the moment.
My website – sassyspeaks.wordpress.com
I found the research fascinating and fully realised I am glad I didn’t live back then. I like my conveniences. How about you? Then or now?