Friday, February 7, 2014

Where inspiration comes from

by Lorraine Bartlett / Lorna Barrett / L.L. Bartlett

I'm working on Booktown #9 (which, so far, has no title ... might be a contest in that, but not quite yet). In the beginning, there is no plot. That's just the way I work. For months and months I've been ruminating about the subplots, and so that's where I've been concentrating my efforts. But now I've got the plot and it's been full steam ahead.

But once you get the basics of the plot, you have to fill in the rest.

In this book, I've introduced a new entity in Stoneham; the Historical Society.  But where would such an entity be located and what would it entail? Of course, I have backstory I can mine, and this time I've mined the home of Hiram Stone, Stoneham's founding father.

But what would the home look like?

Well, what do I know about historical places in New England? Not a lot ... but I know how to use Google and I also watch TV.  So, my house and garden are based on a house I saw on a recent episode of This Old House. The place is known as The Gardens At Elm Bank, and it is breathtakingly beautiful.

Of course, at this point, I've only had one scene take place at the house and garden--a lot of research went into this, but it may just be that it has little more than a drive-by in the finished story.

But that's the way research works.  Writers often gain encyclopedic knowledge on one aspect of a story, when they can only use a few nuggets. But boy do I now want to visit that garden.  So ... a trip to Massachusetts might be in my future.

Do you like learning about real places and things when you read a novel?

16 comments:

Prairiedog said...

I'm amazed at the work that goes into the books I love to read. Looking forward to another Booktown story. The house and gardens would be a great addition to the book, as an attraction in the town, historically significant, and a destination. In the Midwest we don't have buildings that old, but do have some very interesting architecture. Summit Ave. in St. Paul, home of F. Scott Fitzgerald, has some truly amazing homes. Mine is just 8 yrs. old, a townhouse and won't last. But it's home. Good going on the book, that's a wish for you. Karen

Aurian said...

The research is never useless, because once created in your series, it will probably be "a character" in the next books too. It does look lovely Lorraine.

Anonymous said...

Research is always good. You never know when something you looked for for one book will turn out to be necessary for another! I do very well on Jeopardy (sitting on my couch) by pulling thing out of my head that I didn't know were there. For that I can thank years and years of reading!

Susan L. @ Full Happy Muffin and Mama said...

I guess it's the historian in me, but I like to learn about the historical background of places. I try to research the history of things when I write, as well. (Or at least enough of the geography so that I don't have characters crossing a sweltering dessert in an area that snows 365 days a year) Plus, I think knowing about a place helps to develop subplots.

Anonymous said...

I think this place would make a great setting for a summer cocktail party. I may just have to add one to the story.

mary kennedy said...

What a gorgeous garden! I hope you make that trip to New England. I once wrote a mystery set in Key West and didn't have a plot idea until I actually got down there. Since it was a kiddie book, there couldn't be a murder, or any mention of drugs or any violence. I met a marine biologist from National Geographic and asked if he could think of a crime that didn't involve murder or violence. He said, "There's big money in coral, People are chipping away at the coral reefs taking it out of here in chartered planes." Wow, just what I was looking for. I was such a lucky break that I chatted with him!

Diane LaBrie Leverson said...

Living in New England, I can tell you that the Historical Societies are always trying to raise money...In Vernon, Ct. they have a book sale every Spring. People donate all their old books and there are a lot of interesting ones to see. Perhaps you could write about finding a valuable book at a book sale the Historical Society had. I would love to visit Booktown N. H. I wish it did exist.

Rachelle21 said...

When I was a teenager, I read Judy Bolton books which mentioned real towns of Emporium and Gold that are in PA and two fictional towns based on real towns. I never dreamed that as an adult I would be able to visit the places I read about in these books, and meet the author. I did get to visit and go back every year and see places she described. There was some dramatic license and things were moved to suit the storys but some places are there.

Carrie P said...

My husband is from Milford, NH and I was born and lived in Nashua, NH for most of my life. We moved south 5 years ago. I enjoy reading your books and trying to figure out where your characters are traveling to! There are some really neat houses in Milford and Nashua, in fact one "house" in Milford became a community center. My in-laws had their 25th Anniversary party there, they rented the hall for the day. It's still there and right near the oval, here is a link for a photo of it on google ... https://plus.google.com/photos/at/115993154180871363765
:)

Laurie Fancy said...

Stoneham.....Stoneham? Why does that sound familiar?? Oh, maybe because I'm reading your novel 'NOT THE KILLING TYPE' right now! Funny, first time checking out the site and you're blogging. I've been a cozy reader for the past 14 years and really enjoy the genre (or is that sub-genre of mysteries?) I have it on my bucket list to write a book. I think I'd like to write a cozy....write what you know, right?

To all you delightful, ladies -- please continue to write your marvelous books!! Can't wait!! Thank you and happy writing!!

Laurie in Canada

Adrienne said...

Just a thank you for sharing how you get your inspirations and how the story takes form. I'm a reader not a writer so I love learning how you all manage to put so many words
together that keep us all up at night turning page after page.
Thanks so much!!!

SueAnn said...

I like learning bout places and things, tht are real. And the cooking, tea, coffee, cheese,etcc,,,are greatly appreciated.Years ago as a little mudgeon,,,the books I read were fiction...but totally fiction, It was hard to read, to see if there was ANYthing real in them....and I felt sad,,that I could not investigate these places and things. Seems the newer writrs-are adding so much reality of plces, and things..cooking, baking, teas, coffees,I admire teh writters that do this. For the common people reader...we like the dreams,,but we really like the truths too....encourages us o do some investigation on our own.The Cozy Chicks give us that ability-we get entertained, educated,,,all along the way,
I can see a cocktail party there...Your research is never a lost cause..even if you only need one sentence! Down the road,,some more will creep out onto paper.....the smarter you become...then you can teach the best, to your readers....they respect that.And will be on the same plane as you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, SueAnn. I'm so glad to hear you enjoy reading about these kinds of things. (I can almost see the silver trays with doilies on them and filled with finger foods!)

Anonymous said...

What a great mystery for a book. I hope this is one of the books you'll soon have up for sale again!

Anonymous said...

LOL! The Shear Comfort Inn described in Murder On The Half Shelf is actually the house of the town Librarian. She allowed me to use pictures of it as my inspiration. (*Sigh* she is sooooo lucky. Her home is GORGEOUS!)

Anonymous said...

We're so glad you came to visit, Laurie. Hope you'll come every day. We've got lots to share with you!