Monday, October 7, 2013


Hello, Kathy, it's so nice to have you here.

It always amazes me as to how particular historical fiction writers are in bringing their books alive so we can see, feel, hear, exactly what it was like yesteryear.

The history captures us and it's thanks to authors like you who delves so deeply into the research.

Researching the Historical Novel Then and Now
When I started writing seriously in the dark age before computers, researching the historical period in which I had chosen to set my books was no easy task. The local library didn’t always have a particular resource on its reference shelves and if the book was long out of print, it was unavailable at any cost (no Alibris back then). Inter-library loan was the only way to go and even that didn’t always pan out for one reason or another. Travel was not always possible, especially on a limited budget. Writing letters to experts was a practical resource, as were phone calls, but in the days before the breakup of Ma Bell, calls from Indiana to New York were expensive.

Today, those same resources and more are just a few key strokes away. Many of the books I used to wait weeks for through inter-library loan have been scanned and uploaded to the web on a variety of sites devoted to history and genealogy. In addition, there are hosts of fabulous materials I would never have dreamed of back then. Old maps and documents, in addition to diaries and other first-hand accounts, are all available online.

When I pulled “The Serpent’s Tooth” trilogy out of mothballs and dusted it off for an overhaul, I found myself tapping in to these resources. I was like a kid in a candy shop. With all of the material I was able to find, I scrapped entire portions of the story in favor of rewrites based on information that was not available to me back then.

As a native New Yorker, I was especially fascinated to learn of the changes that made Manhattan what it is today. From street names to the layout of the streets themselves, the old town of the mid-eighteenth century can no longer be found. Photographs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries of long-gone buildings and first-hand descriptions in old books give the 21st century time traveler a glimpse into this world. Paintings and maps also provide hints of what the city looked like back then.

Street names were especially interesting. During and after the American Revolution, many thoroughfares, such as King, King George, and Queen Streets, were renamed, remapped, and/or rerouted. Today you’ll find Pine, William, and Pearl Streets. In The Partisan’s Wife (book #3 of the trilogy), the place where Peter and Anne’s house stood was called Wynne (or Winne) Street between Bayard’s Lane and St. Nicholas Street. These street names are no more. Wynne is now part of Mott Street in the heart of Chinatown, an area that was basically unsettled in the mid-18th century, as was pretty much everything north of Wall Street. It’s hard to picture Greenwich Village as the farmland and rolling hills it was then. Many streets and avenues in today’s lower New York evolved from long driveways belonging to huge mansions with gardens, orchards, and expansive lawns. For example, the long drive that belonged to the Bayard homestead in the late 1700s was for a time called Bayard’s Lane. It’s now a section of Broome Street on the Lower East Side.

To write historical fiction is to live for a while in that period of time and become comfortable not only with the clothes, attitudes, and customs, but with the physical place as well. It’s my desire to take the reader back in time with me and hope they enjoy the journey.

Excerpt from The Partisan’s Wife
She had barely finished bidding her good-byes to Mercy and the Van Allens when the door of the shining yellow coach swung open from within and Peter stepped down into the spill of light from hanging lanterns. How she managed to traverse the short distance from the steps at the front door and into his waiting arms seemed miraculous. How, without exertion, she came to be beside him, their bodies close, on the cushioned carriage seat boggled her mind. With her spirits soaring, heart racing and thoughts in a muddle, even the words they exchanged were lost to the exhilaration he inspired.

Amid the swaying and jostling, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves and the clatter of wheels over cobblestones, she reveled in the honeyed taste of his mouth and his hands, skillfully exploring under her cloak. His deep, warm scent intoxicated her senses.

“Let me look at you.” His breath rustled like a summer breeze on her throat, and he settled back in the seat, his eyes sparkling from within the shadows enveloping his face. “I’ve missed you so horribly.”

“As I’ve missed you.”

Even in the dark, the changes in Peter’s appearance were obvious and extraordinary. From head to foot, he seemed a new man, with his fashionable clothes and stylishly queued hair, now quite disheveled. And the coach and two fine horses….

Before she could gather her thoughts to speak again, he leaned close, and crushing her into the corner, trailed kisses from the top of her head to her jaw.

“You look well,” he said. “Positively radiant!”

“Being with you does that to me.”

She nipped gently at his lips grazing her mouth with the touch of a whisper. He kissed her again, deeply, probing. With his hands and his mouth and his closeness, he stirred her near the point beyond bearing. When he came up for air, she moaned, as the cold washed over her.

With tremulous fingers, he traced the line of her mouth. “Not here, my love. I have in mind something less jarring.” He turned his attention past her to the window. “But look. We’re almost there.”

Senses in a whirl, she sat up and, straightening her clothes, followed his gaze.

As they traveled north on Bowery Lane, a full moon had risen, hanging large and low over the East River, illuminating the landscape in a widening swath of pale light. Trees and shrubs, mostly divested of leaves, lined the wide lanes on either side. Houses, imposing in size and resplendent with light in their windows, stood at the ends of long avenues amid gardens and orchards. And with the shift in scenery, so too the feel and sound of the road had changed. For quite some time, the cobblestones of city streets had given way to hard packed earth and gravel.

“Where are we going?”

“I should have you close your eyes until we arrive. I want this to be a surprise.”

“I believe I’ve had enough surprises for one day.”

“Then look there….”

The carriage had taken a left turn onto one of the narrow avenues. A few houses, much smaller and far less grand than the mansions they had passed, stood sparsely placed, dark, and seemingly uninhabited. Save one with a single candle burning in a south facing window.

“Forgive me, darling,” he said with a sheepish smile as the carriage rolled to a stop. “It’s not made of brick, and it has but the one floor. I didn’t have time to have it painted yellow, but that’s a minor concern. After all, you might decide that another color suits us better.”

He handed her down from the vehicle and with her bundle of clothes in one hand, he slipped her arm through his. “Welcome home, Mrs. Marlowe.”

She could not find words to express her astonishment.

“This is not what we discussed, I admit, but it’s the best I could do, given the time and circumstances. I hope it pleases you.”

The modest clapboard house faced south, its pane glass windows with shutters open. The few strategically placed trees would provide ample shade in the summer months. She envisioned a simple garden and drinking tea on the lawn. In the light of the moon, it appeared to be everything she could ever want or hope for.

“Tell me I’m not dreaming.” Tears of joy filled her eyes.
This sounds like a wonderful read, Kathy. And the research had to be immense.
Get your copy here folks,

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  1. Hi Lorrie, Thanks so much for hosting my blog and excerpt. I've enjoyed my stay :-)

  2. Hi back Kathy,
    So great to have you here. Your stay is just starting. You'll be up for three days. This is a great, interersting post. I'm sure readers will enjoy it. Nice cover, wonderful excerpt, good read, what more can you want?

  3. I very much enjoy well-researched historicals. So many romances are planted in some historical period, but are so far off real history, they're ridiculous. I tend to look things up and check the facts when I read. Do a good job (which it seems you have), and you'll get my appreciation.

  4. Marva, you sound like a touch critic. If you read my books, I hope you won't find fault. I try hard :-)