With the launch of Meddlin’ Madeline: Sweet on You only days away, I thought I’d share a few fun facts about the book and my writing process with it. As you probably have read, the idea for Madeline came when I was searching for photos for another book idea (one I still haven’t fleshed out yet!). I found this picture and loved it.
I wondered who she was and what she was reading. Well… then I turned the page and… wow! There were dozens of photos of her, all in the same general theme. Bowler hat, gloves, late Victorian/early Edwardian clothes… I could just see her riding through town on a “wheel” and solving crimes. And well, the rest was born. I had to narrow down like twenty pictures to five. I couldn’t do it. So I did six. That worked. I just hope I can keep it limited to six.
Funny story. I got the idea not too long ago to do a 21st-century version featuring her great, great granddaughter. Wouldn’t that be fun? I can’t wait. But I digress.
Five Fun Facts:
This is a historical novel, so that meant lots of research. Well, in the sense that it takes place in another time period, anyway. Research proved a lot more difficult than you would have imagined. You see, the world was in a state of flux right then. Victorian mores were giving way to a new, modern era–a new century! It was an exciting time in history, but because everything was in a perpetual state of change, finding what was truly historically accurate was almost as difficult as finding accurate Regency information. A few tidbits for you.
Slang was becoming more common.
I found fun lists of words like hawkshaw (detective), lickpenny (miser), yegg (safe cracker), and live wire (exciting person). One word both intrigued and irritated me–snarky. Yep. It was a common word in the first decade of the 1900’s. I tried to use it, but it just sounded incredibly modern. On the other hand, modern slang also destroyed certain sentences. I wrote, “You have the coolest yard….” Ahem. It’s what someone would have said. It was a temperate yard! However, with our modern slang, a perfectly acceptable word had to be removed so it wouldn’t jar the reader from the story.
Steam vs. gasoline was a big argument at the time.
We know which one won out, but I found the method of starting a Locomobile (steam) much more exciting than a gas powered car. I mean you had this starting iron that had to get red hot and then be thrust into the boiler. Then you prayed it would start. Cool.
Brownie cameras came out.
Marketed as children’s toys, they were made of cardboard and cost a dollar. The film had to be sent to Eastman Kodak and it took about ten days to get it back (depending on where you lived). The images were only 2.25″, which made for a picture about that of the one on the right. No joke. I think I now know why my favorite antique frames that sat on my Aunt Marilyn’s end table were so tiny! They fit the pictures of the era in which they were made! Wow!
Electricity was not uncommon in homes–neither was it the norm.
I found that most houses that did have electric lighting had bulbs strung from wires at the ceiling–no fixtures! People couldn’t afford them and the upgrade to electricity. Eight percent of homes had telephones. That’s a lot more than I would have imagined.
Finding out what American women called their underwear proved more difficult than you’d imagine.
I felt like Willie Olson in the Little House on the Prairie episode when he’s peeking at the underwear section of the catalog. It’s my least favorite episode. I’ve always hated it. Well, when you’re looking at page after page after page of Sears & Roebuck catalogs from the turn-of-the-twentieth-century trying to find women’s underwear to see what they’re called…. Sigh. Note: Brits called them knickers. I don’t know what upper-middle-class or upper-class American women called them, but the average Jane called them “drawers.” Shocker, right? My poor Madeline had to be common. I distinctly remember a scene about drawers and pants and something in the Anne of Green Gables books, but alas… sigh. They’re Canadian. Who knows if they were closer to Americans in that particular terminology or closer to Brits? Someone does. I don’t. Sigh.
The writing style is very different.
This is partly due to a quirk of Madeline’s, but it also has to do with the fact that people used broader vocabularies back then. I wrote the book with a style that fit the era. It was difficult not to lapse into modern vernacular or even something a bit more twenties. After all, the title of the series was inspired by a song from the 1920’s. I even mixed up the title a bit in a line in the book. Have fun finding that!
Fun Fact #2:
This book technically fits in the Rockland Chronicles! It takes place in a young Rockland. Most of the suburbs of Rockland don’t even exist yet! My mind kept the “neighborhood” from the movie Meet Me in St. Louis in mind as I described streets, trolleys, and houses/yards. It was so much fun to imagine streets that were major thoroughfares in 1901 becoming less popular in 2016! That’s the best part of creating your own metropolis. You can have whatever you want. If you’ve read HearthLand, you might be interested to know that the “Dry Docks” mentioned in Madeline is what Annie called “The Crypt” in her time. I so want to design a map of the old and the new Rocklands. Alas, I can’t draw anything reasonably recognizable, but I’d like to try. Just for the fun of it, of course.
Rockland in 1901 was a growing city–large, but nothing on the scale of Chicago or New York. Today, Rockland would be a combination of Chicago and Atlanta. Large with millions of people, but at the time of this book, there isn’t even a hundred thousand. It grew quickly between 1900 and WWII and even more quickly afterward. So, exploring this city in its infancy, so to speak, really gave me a richer feel for this little world that I’ve created. Rockland is surrounded by bedroom communities and farms. Those farming communities created the need for a central hub and then later the city grew and thrived on its own industries apart from agriculture. Now those same farming communities are the smaller cities like Westbury, Hillsdale, Fairbury, and Ferndale. Go farther out and you’ll reach areas like Dolman or even Carson’s family’s dairy farm in Stoneyhill.
Fun Fact #3
This book begins a journey of self-discovery for Madeline. One of the things I wanted most to do with this book was to explore the “birth” of a detective. I wanted to show what it might be like for someone to realize that he or she notices things that others don’t. I wanted to explore how people would react to having their secrets exposed, and I wanted to show just how difficult it would be to investigate suspicious things without becoming deceitful or putting oneself in compromising positions. It’s easy to assume people would appreciate knowing if they were being taken advantage of, but would they really? Would pride not get in the way of things? I suspect it would.
Each book does have a definite “mystery.” These aren’t traditional mysteries. I won’t be dealing with murder until the end. But each one will increase in difficulty for Madeline and the reader to decipher the truth, and add a new element of danger and self-discovery. But there’s an overarching theme over the entire series that won’t be resolved until the end. And that’s kind of cool.
Fun Fact #4
This was one of the most fun books I’ve ever written. When I first finished it, the word count came in at just about 85,000 words. Exactly where I wanted it. I was so naive. Well, after Clark tore it apart and made one of the sub-plots become the second book (read about that here), I ended up with under 80,000 words. No problem, right? Just tie a few things together and voila! Done!
Ha! Hahahahahahah. Mmmwaaahahahah. Snicker. Snort. Guffaw. Yeah. Over 20,000 words later… yep! TWENTY THOUSAND, the book is done. We’re at a whopping 100,000 words. Eeep. But it was fun. I fell in love with characters, learned to hate others, and can’t wait to see what happens next. I had planned to write the next one next year. Yeah. I don’t think so. I think I’ll be writing the next one this year. Because I’m just dying to get into the next story. So… yeah. Lots of fun in this book!
Fun Fact #5
We have five more books to go! We’re just getting started with Madeline’s adventures. A sneak peek into the rest of the series: we’ll get to learn more about her best friend, Amy. I haven’t decided just what kind of girl Amy is, but I suspect she’s quite beautiful. I think that’ll play a part in a future book. She’s also likely to meet someone in her European tour. Will she be the friend with the suspicious letter in book four? Who knows? Not me!
Russell is going to be a bit busier as fall approaches. They have a lot of work to do and it’s going to tear him away from the little socials they have going on. He, of course, will hound her with the same question as in the first book. Because I’m mean that way.
We’re not done with Edith, Henry, Flossie, and the gang. I think some friendships are going to be tested, though. That whole conflict thing. Gotta torture the characters.
It’s strange how a simple book can absorb so much of your time. I keep thinking about each character, each scene, each subplot, wondering just what will make it the best story I can make it. I keep wondering if I can pull a Christmas story out of it in a couple of years. That sounds fun. Yeah.
I hope you enjoyed my silly list of “fun facts.” There are lots of things happening with this series, and it begins with Madeline and someone “sweet” on someone else!