Friday, February 08, 2008

Adventures in Research - Part Trois

I've decided that the only way that I'm going to get through the research for my historical YA, Veiled Beauty, is with many, many pictures of Richard Armitage. That's Richard as Sir Guy with Maid Marian in the second season of Robin Hood, probably shocked that the series has been renewed for a third season.

I had a bit of a jolt on Monday when I watched this American Experience program on Grand Central Station. In the 19th century, there was no such thing as Amtrak. Railroads competed for business and for routes. The New York Central railroad of which Vanderbilt was a chief stockholder had the route from Chicago to New York to Boston and then points in Upstate New York pretty sewn up. Grand Central Depot as it was called back then was where the trains stopped in New York.

Now my heroine is from Philadelphia. For her to get to New York and then Grand Central, she would have to take the Pennsylvania Railroad line from Philadelphia to Jersey City in New Jersey and then take a ferry across to New York, make her way to Grand Central Depot and then take the train from there to upstate New York. Yikes! That's one long ass trip. And the trains were still steam engines. Electric trains didn't really come into vogue until the tail end of the century and really into the early years of the 20th. This was after many accidents at Grand Central depot with steam engines.

Of course, in my head, I had my heroine going to straight to New York and then on upstate all on the same train. Silly me! I had thought of moving my heroine to Boston, but the problem is the woman that I'm partly basing my heroine on came from Boston and I don't want it to be that similar. Plus I like Philadelphia, I know the city fairly well from my days stage managing a friend's theater company. And because of its background being founded by Quakers, and a hotbed of abolitionists, and the place the Declaration of Independence was signed. The City of Brotherly Love and all that.

I can also use how utterly exhausted my poor heroine is going to be after having schlepped all the way from Philadelpia to my advantage. Right now things are a little too easy peasy for her when she arrives at college. She might even have to stay overnight at a boarding house before she takes the trolley to college in the morning, leaving her dreadfully low on funds.

When I came up with the plot for my new YA, I had thought because I'm a history geek, that the research would be easy. Then it dawned on my that while I knew a great deal about 19th century England, my knowledge of late 19th century America was not as extensive as I had thought. 19th Century New York society yes, the lives of the middle class not so much. And lives of late 19th century college girls not at all.

It's been a real learning process trying to find out the information that I need but also a lot of fun. And its not going to go to waste because I have at least 2 other books that I want to set in the same time period which hopefully I'll get to write if this comes off.

As long as I have my pictures of Richard to inspire me!

Thanks for reading,


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