By Pamela S. Meyers
I began my novel writing with contemporary Christian fiction, but when the desire to write stories set in my hometown took root, I began writing historical romance.
Even when the setting is a place one is very familiar with, a lot of research has to be done. In addition to the style of clothing and hair, I needed to know what did Main Street look like in the late 19th Century going forward and who were the town’s leaders back then. It’s been a lot of fun piecing together the look of the town and also weaving in historical events that took place there in addition to the world at large. My first historical novel, Surprised by Love in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, takes place in 1933. It was a perfect transition from contemporary to historical because in the thirties, people had phones and drove cars. I also had access to the weekly newspaper through microfilms stored at the local library allowing me to see advertisements for restaurants and the movie theater. All of which became incorporated into the storyline.
My current series begins in October 1871 at the outset of the Great Chicago Fire when the flames forced many well-to-do people to move their families north to Lake Geneva where they built beautiful summer homes on the lake. To write Safe Refuge, I not only had to research the Great Chicago Fire but also learn about the railroad line that connected Lake Geneva with Chicago. I used the local paper to gain the flavor of the town during that time, but newspapers then weren’t like the newspapers of the 1930s, and weren’t as easy to navigate. However, I learned of a set of diaries located at a University of Wisconsin campus written by a woman who lived in Lake Geneva at the time and they turned out to be a treasure trove of information.
The second book in the series, Shelter Bay, takes place about twenty years later in 1893. By then the wealthy shore-dwellers were using steam yachts to get from one point on the lakeshore to the other. Although some of those steam yachts are still in use today with gas-powered engines and I had grown up seeing them, I still needed to learn how they were used before paved roads made it easier for people to move about. During that research, I heard about several sinkings of the boats and one, in particular, grabbed my interest. Although that boat’s sinking took place in 1894, I borrowed the event and its unique details and sank a fictionalized boat in the story. I also wanted to know what else was going on in 1893 and was elated to discover that the Columbian Exposition (AKA The Chicago World’s Fair.
I’m now working on the third book in the series, Tranquility Point. It takes place when the US is on the verge of entering World War 1. I’ve already learned a great deal about Wisconsin during that time and how that conflict impacted people at home in Lake Geneva when their young men went off to war. I’m excited to see what other things I stumble on that will find their way into the story.
There’s an old saying that we learn something new every day. Historical novelists learn many new things every day and I’m having a blast doing so. What is something new you’ve learned recently?
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.