by Pamela S. Meyers
When I began to write the Newport of the West series I wanted to portray the rich history of my hometown of Lake Geneva, WI. and to accurately portray the small village of Geneva, Wisconsin (as it was called in 1871? But how could I learn about life there during that time?
My first resource was the Geneva Lake Museum where I was able to view old photos of Main Street, but I needed more. My next stop was the Public Library where I viewed microfilms of the local newspaper back then. I was able to learn through the advertisements what businesses were in town, which was helpful. But what was life really like for the residents?
During a presentation at the museum, I learned one of the town’s early residents had kept a series of diaries that could be viewed at the Wisconsin Historical Society archives located an hour and a half north of me at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Several weeks later, I sat at a table at the university and began reading the diaries written by Mrs. Charles Baker, wife of one of the founding fathers of the town. I focused on those from October 1871 to January 1872—the window of time in which Safe Refuge is set. I read about how the Great Chicago Fire impacted the town as refugees from the fire took the train from Chicago to find temporary housing in Geneva, But more than that, I also read about Mrs. Baker’s daily life, and how she visited the ill and worked on supplies to help the fire victims.
The hours flew by and soon it was time to leave, I felt like I was saying goodbye to an old friend, but I had taken copious notes and took a few pictures of the actual diaries. I couldn’t wait to apply the “color” to Safe Refuge, which released in March 2018; the first book in my Newport of the West series,
I do have another diary that was written in 1899-1900 by my paternal grandmother when she and my grandfather were courting. You might someday hear of a novel from me containing nuggets from that diary. Do you have old diaries or letters handed down in your family?
Pamela has written most of her life, beginning with her first diary at age eight. Her novels include Thyme For Love, Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Second Chance Love, and Safe Refuge (Book One in the Newport of the West Series), and Whatever is True, a contemporary romance. Shelter Bay, Book 2 in her Newport of the West series, releases in May 2019. She lives in northeastern Illinois with her two rescue cats.