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Today, at The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy, I have the 5th of the 5 part series in which I talk with Lisa Mason about researching our time travel novels.
Check back in the next week or two for articles and pictures from writer Kathy Opie, as she tries out some of the medieval recipes I found for her!
We’ve asked authors Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika to talk with us about their time travel books.
Lisa Mason is the author of Summer of Love, A Time Travel, on Nook and Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel, on Nook and on Kindle. Summer of Love was a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book. Locus Magazine said, “Remarkable. . .the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.”The Gilded Age was a New York Times Notable Book and New York Public Library Recommended Book. The New York Times Book Review called The Gilded Age, “A winning mixture of intelligence and passion.”Visit Lisa on the web at Lisa Mason’s Official Websiteor Lisa Mason’s Blog.
Laura Vosika is the author of Blue Bells of Scotland, on Kindle, Nook, itunes, and at Smashwords, lauded as a book in the vein of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and earning many five-star reviews. Nan Hawthorne, author of historical fiction, called Blue Bells of Scotland one of her favorite books of the year. The praise was echoed by Robert Mattos of Book and Movie Reviews, adding that it is a must-have for the book shelves of any serious reader. The Minstrel Boy, Book Two in The Blue Bells Chronicles is also out. Visit Laura at www.bluebellstrilogy.com or www.facebook.com/laura.vosika.
What research did you do for the era your time traveler returns to?
Laura: Every possible sort. I researched medieval times, Scotland, names, food, castles, weapon(r)y; weather, temperature, and sunrise and sunset on given days of the year in Scotland; whether the clothing in 1314 had buttons (no), time travel theories in science and fiction. I brushed up on my classical music and learned about the vampire of Melrose Abbey. I routinely post a 'Researching Today' status on my facebook author page (www.facebook.com/laura.
vosika.author) telling about the interesting things I come across. I flew to Scotland for a two week research trip to visit all the locations in Blue Bells of Scotland.
I read a number of fiction books set in the era, particularly The Path of the Hero King, the thoroughly-researched novelization of the events leading up to Bannockburn by the great Scottish writer, Nigel Tranter. My collection of books on Scotland and medieval time--castles, towns, history, music, and food to name but a few specialties--spans several shelves. A few that stand out are Robert the Bruce: King of Scots by Ronald McNair Scott, Bannockburn 1314: Robert Bruce's Great Victory by Pete Armstrong; James the Good: The Black Douglas by David R. Ross; and Robert Bruce and The Community of the Realm of Scotland by W.S. Barrow.
I also used a number of internet resources, including digging up English records from the time online. I kept detailed charts compiling differences of opinions among scholars.
Lisa: How did people fasten their clothes before buttons, let alone zippers? You’ll have to read Laura’s book to find out, among many other things!
For Summer of Love, I set out to capture the sights, sounds, attitudes, and culture from the inside out. I started out with The Haight-Ashbury, A History by Charles Perry, a book he worked on for eight years. From there, I read the daily San Francisco Chronicle from June 21, 1967 to September 4, 1967 on microfiche at the Santa Rosa Public Library (the only place in the Bay area where I could find such an archive). I acquired the gorgeous facsimile edition of The Oracle published by Regent Press and found a complete archive of The Berkeley Barb at the Berkeley Public Library. At Walden Pond Books, Bibliomania, and the now-vanished Holmes Book Company (all in Oakland) and Shakespeare & Company and Moe’s (both in Berkeley), I found rare books such as Lenore Kandel’s infamous Beat poem, Love Needs Care by Dr. David E. Smith who founded the Free Clinic, and Notes From Underground. I borrowed people’s home movies, studied Making Sense of the Sixties, which featured the famous Harry Reasoner clip, and watched Star Trek episodes (no, I’m not a Trekkie, but that research was fun). I acquired Life and Time magazines for June through September, 1967 from online bookstores, as well as a privately published corporate history of Marinship for details on Ruby Maverick’s mother’s experience as a war worker (found that gem at a military books specialist in St. Louis). I spoke with, met, or corresponded with Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Katharine Kerr, Allen Ginsberg, and Allan Cohen, and even spoke by phone with the late Lenore Kandel. She told me that the bus fare in 1967 was fifteen cents (not a quarter, as I’d thought) and that there was no Sausalito ferry operating in 1967. We shared a laugh over the fact that her brother wrote scripts for Star Trek (she proofed the manuscript for me and loved the Star Trek riffs). And, of course, like Laura, I visited locations. Alas, I didn’t get a two-week research trip to Scotland. I live in the San Francisco Bay area and visited the ‘hood, which remains remarkably unchanged, and walked through the Portals of the Past in Golden Gate Park.
As for The Gilded Age, I found an entire library of books about the world during the 1890s, the United States, and San Francisco in particular. Several journalists in the 1930s and 1940s published detailed and lively accounts of the City before the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire all but demolished San Francisco. These accounts included such classics as The Barbary Coast, The Madams of San Francisco, and The Tongs of Chinatown. Accounts abound of the amazing Donaldina Cameron, who rescued slave girls from the tongs and who plays a pivotal role in my book. Fin de siècle San Francisco was already a tourist attraction in the 1890s, and I found an actual guidebook published in 1899.
But what about those telling details?
Novels of the period (by authors such as Frank Norris and Jack London) reveal much about personal attitudes. At the late, great The Holmes Book Company in Oakland I discovered recipe books by the famous chefs of 1890s San Francisco with delicious details about food and drink. I think my favorite resources are the facsimile editions of the Montgomery Ward and Sears & Roebuck catalogs. There I discovered a wealth of detail about clothing, popular books, harnesses and carriages, guns, sewing implements, patent medicines, wigs, smoking accoutrements, makeup, children’s toys, and more. Pure heaven for the historical researcher!
Laura: It really is those minute details that bring a story to life, that give it the strong touch of reality and create the suspension of disbelief. I have been looking forward to preparing some of the food in my Medieval Feasts book. I probably won't go so far as to build a five-man-sized brazier--I have a bad feeling there are city ordinances against them--but maybe I'll time the cooking by saying Hail Marys, as is suggested in one resource, and see how that goes! I'm currently sampling a few of the Twin Cities' offerings in mead. All in the name of research of course!
Lisa: Research, always! The biggest, juiciest treasure trove for The Gilded Age came in a bound volume of a newspaper, The Argonaut, for the entire years of 1896 and 1897. There I discovered such eye-openers as lady bicyclists and the scandals surrounding their attire (bloomers!) and how much the Spreckels sugar baron spent a year on cut flowers ($50,000). It’s hard to find that kind of delightful everyday detail in history books.
Thanks to Lisa Mason and Laura Vosika for a lively and thought-provoking discussion. If you, the reader, wish to join the discussion or have any questions or comments for our authors, feel free to contact them. And please buy their books!
Summer of Love, A Time Travel, on Nook and Kindle, and The Gilded Age, A Time Travel, on Nook and on Kindle,by Lisa Mason.