How much research did the A Change of Fortune take?
Unfortunately, when I decided to write the setting in 1880, New York, I came to the sad conclusion that besides the fashions of the day, my knowledge of that time was severely limited. I spent numerous days at the Parker Library, where Ms. Carol McMinn, one of the local librarians, helped me find book after book on New York history and also taught me how to use their rather intimidating data base which I could access from home. It took me a few weeks to wade through all the material and then I was ready to write.
What are the most interesting facts that you learned while researching and writing A Change of Fortune?
1880, New York was a truly fascinating time in history. The city was filled with immigrants who were stuffed into deplorable tenement slums and forced to work in factories if they could even find a job, but the hours were cruel and the wages small.
On the other side were the incredibly wealthy people who purchased mansions on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue and spent their time flitting from one department store to another and hosting fabulous parties in their homes.
New inventions were coming out daily and people were thrilled to ride on the elevated train that circles above them (even though it was supposedly rather dirty) and steam elevators had made their appearance in the grand department stores and the invention of those still boggles my mind and one has to wonder who the brave souls were who first rode them up six floors.
My degree is in Clothing and Textiles and I did study the history of American fashions in school, but never delved into the mass marketing aspect department stores provided to their clients. Everything changed when they appeared in the cities. No longer did women (somewhat wealthy women that is) have to hand sew their clothes and buggies and horses would line the streets in front of stores like B. Altman’s while the ladies began spending their days perusing the latest fashions and gadgets of the day.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story?
The most difficult aspect of the story was probably reining myself in with some of the outlandish adventures Eliza found herself in. I would suddenly get caught up in the humor of the chapter and then off I’d go – down a bunny trail that had absolutely nothing to do with the plot – I delete material every day, but deleting a scene that made me laugh was tough – but, I certainly didn’t want the book to read like a sketch from Saturday Night Live, so deleting was seen all too often during the first draft.
Do you write by the seat-of-your pants letting the story unfold as you write, plot the entire story; write with an outline, or a combination of the above?
I always know the beginning of the story and the end (because I only write Happily Ever After). What comes in-between varies from chapter to chapter. I have a sketchy outline for five chapters at a time, but normally by the time I reach that fifth chapter, the characters have taken me somewhere entirely different, so…I let them.