Research After the Fact
For the last ten years, give or take a little, I worked on a historical novel about Chicago. It was my “big” project, often set aside for shorter, less puzzling work. But I’m a believer in letting things simmer in the back of your mind—and I was convinced this was simmering. In between other projects, I’d go back and fiddle with the manuscript I then called “Potter’s Wife.” I’d change the point of view—Potter Palmer, Cissy Palmer, omniscient third-person, Most of all I’d research.
I ordered books on interlibrary loan as if there were a desperate hurry and the service would not be available the next day. I read everything I could find about Chicago history, Potter and Bertha (Cissy) Honoré Potter, the Columbian Exposition, the Great Fire of Chicago, architecture. I spent hours online.
I’d write, put it aside, rewrite, go on to a mystery, etc. One of my big breakthroughs came when a first line popped into my head. “The smell. He’d never forget the smell.” I had the tone I wanted, and the actual writing came fairly easily. Satisfied that I had followed all loose threads and tied them up, I sent “Potter’s Wife” to my editor. Somewhere along the way it became “The Gilded Cage.” I sent it to a formatter and hired a dear friend to do the jacket design (original art now hangs, framed, in my cottage).
Mid-May last spring, the book went live on Amazon in trade paper and ebook, garnering mostly five-star reviews, sales that for me were good, and flattering comments from those who read it immediately. Then I discovered a whole new research source I had no idea about and now wonder how I missed.
An award-winning novelist, Judy Alter is the author of several fictional biographies of women of the American West. In The Gilded Cage she has turned her attention to the late nineteenth century in her home town, Chicago, to tell the story of the lives of Potter and Cissy Palmer, a high society couple with differing views on philanthropy and workers’ right. She is also the author of six books in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries series. With the 2014 publication of The Perfect Coed, she introduced the Oak Grove Mysteries.
Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame. http://judyalter.com/
Blog URL: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com
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Buy link for The Gilded Cage