1. San Francisco
2. Trains routes crossing from San Francisco to Ouray, Colorado in 1888
3. The town of Ouray in the 1880s
4. Maps of the San Juan Mountains and mining areas
5. Beaumont Hotel in Ouray in both time eras
6. Ladies' attire in 1888
7. Immerse myself in Victorian language
The idea for this novel started percolating after I read A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains written by Isabella Lucy Bird. It' a real life account by a woman who traveled alone through the Rocky Mountains in the mid-1800s. As real life often does, the potential love story fizzled, and I felt disappointed. Later, when I thought about that book, my mind rewrote the story. Eventually, I decided to create a fictional account that might satisfy my own romantic nature. The book would be set in the town of Ouray, Colorado. I once lived nearby and knew about the town, its history, and the adventurous Jeep trails around the mountains. (I experienced a few rides, trembling from fear.)
Cable cars were already spreading across the hilly terrain, making travel easier for residents within the city. Before I could write, it was necessary to understand outfits Ginny might wear as a woman of society in 1888. The fashions of the time included bustles and billowing skirts that met the floor. In a few years the bustle would disappear and skirts became slimmer with tight waists. I decided that Ginny met a forward-thinking woman fashion designer during her travels and introduced the new style into San Francisco society. Lots of fun.
When I commenced writing, I often needed to stop and research small inventions. Did fountain pens exist and how did one fill the pen with ink? When were small cameras invented and could Ginny be using one? How about the idea that her brother and his partner started a business minting gold coins? Was it legal? I had seen relics of old aerial trams that were used by miners and knew that water-powered generators were used in electric plants in Ouray and Telluride during this time period. How did these inventions operate? I did more research and found diagrams of hydraulic generators and aerial trams.
While living in Colorado, I toured old mines and knew general information about the area and its history, however, I needed to know which historic buildings existed in 1888. I downloaded a walking-tour map of Ouray from the Historic Society that displayed locations, photos, and dates of various buildings, so I could accurately described the town.
When we lived in Colorado, the Beaumont was undergoing restoration, and I knew it would look beautiful. The hotel was originally completed in 1887 and old photos show it was lavishly decorated for its time period.
Having gathered all the facts, pictures, and established a mental scheme for the action, I began writing the story from the 1888 time period. I needed to write the historical narrative in a Victorian voice, so I stopped often to search my thesaurus for archaic words. I also read historical novels to immerse myself in Victorian attitudes, dialog, and mannerisms. To keep the character's train of thought, I wrote the entire journal before writing from my modern characters’ point of view. I plan to alternate episodes of the journal between chapters that cover the modern story.
I’m not sure that I’m cut out to become a historical novelist, but it was an adventure to work on this one. When I finish the novel this summer, it will be full of adventure and danger for the modern characters while they follow the trail left for them in the journal and clues around the Victorian house. They need to solve tricky problems to find the gold, since we can't allow it to be too easy.
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