Writers of historical fiction often spend months researching the various settings of their novels before they begin to write. While I enjoy reading historical fiction, I’ve never really thought about writing it because I know how every detail needs to be supported. Writers of contemporary fiction often need to spend some time researching, but it varies from project to project. For DEFENDING IRENE, I attended Italian club soccer games. For SAVING THE GRIFFIN, I had to develop the Italian estate where my main characters were living. For SUSPECT, I started with reading about bed and breakfasts.
My first window into the running of a bed and breakfast came from Barbara Michaels’ novel, HERE I STAY. Even better, my writer friend Jeanie Franz Ransom had spent some time reviewing bed and breakfasts for a magazine. She loaned me her clips and I made copies. The initial furnishings, wallpaper and breakfast menus from the Schoenhaus came from her articles. One of the places she stayed even had a mystery weekend, so I was able to read about how the owners ran the event. These days, I could have probably done a quick search on the web to check out the pictures from various establishments around the nation. But I wrote my first draft back in the late 1990’s before many people set up lovely websites with lots of pictures.
During the first three months that we lived in Italy, my family lived at something called a Residence Hotel in a small apartment. That gave me some exposure to the rhythms of a comparatively small place.
I had some ideas about how Jen would need to go about cleaning the rooms in my earliest drafts, but I really lucked out when my oldest daughter got a job in housekeeping up at Boyne’s Mountain Grand Lodge and Spa in the summer of 2009. It’s an extreme nice place where everthing has to be just right. As I noted on the SUSPECT dedication page, I learned all about how and where to use the blue and pink cleaning supplies from her. It also helped me fill in details with respect to cleanng:
I stood up and did a final sweep of the bathroom. No dirt. No streaks. No spots. I pulled off my laterx gloves and ran my hand lightly over the marble countertops and white porcelain sink. Smooth. That meant clean. The toilet paper had its special pointed fold. Even Grandma Kay would be impressed.
And I think it also helped me nail the attitudes in housekeeping such as in this advice from Jen to Bri: “Don’t forget to look under the beds. You never know what you’re going to find.”