Visit Granite Springs: An Interview with Carol Cox

A good historical fiction novel will make you feel like you’ve been taken back in time, like you can experience events long in the past. But what creates that feeling for the reader is often a lot of hard work by the author! Amy Green (Bethany House’s fiction publicist) here, and today on the blog I’m interviewing Carol Cox, who loves the research process and bringing history to life through her novels. Her newest release is Truth Be Told, and she’ll share some behind-the-scenes information about it with us.Truth Be Told

Amy: Tell us a little about the setting of Truth Be Told.

Carol: Truth Be Told is set in the fictional town of Granite Springs, located in the highlands of central Arizona—one of my favorite places in the state. The variety seen in the landscape is stunning—everything from rolling ranchland to dense cedar thickets to pine-covered slopes. The area also has a rich history of mining, ranching, and lumber operations, all of which are woven into the tapestry of the story.

Since Amelia takes over running her father’s weekly newspaper upon his unexpected death, many of the scenes in the book take place in the printing office of the Granite Springs Gazette. Learning about operating a frontier newspaper in 19th century Arizona was a fascinating experience, and I loved being able to use that research to give the story authenticity.

Granite Springs

The landscape that inspired the setting of Granite Springs.

Amy: Speaking of research, as a writer of historical fiction, what would you say are your three most important resources?

The library—and my own collection of reference books—are often the first places I turn to when I begin my research. I also do a lot of searching online, being careful to make sure the sources I use are accurate. Sharlot Hall Museum, located in Prescott, is a treasure trove of information on Arizona history. And for Truth Be Told, I was thrilled to be able to learn about the operations of a 19th-century newspaper and the process of printing on a Washington Hand Press from Sky Shipley, owner of Skyline Type Foundry.

Amy: You are at a writers’ conference and an aspiring author sits down next to you and asks, “How can I make my historical setting come alive for modern readers?” How would you answer?

I try to gather as many details about the setting as I can from as many sources as I can locate. And if making a trip to the site is feasible, so much the better! I love being able to experience the “feel” of a place for myself. Onsite research lets me soak up the setting’s atmosphere and gives me a host of sensory details I can weave into a story to make the reading experience richer and more immediate for my readers.

Printing Press type

A type cabinet: note the number of pieces sorted in cases.

Whether I visit the setting in person or not, I’ll spend time putting myself in the minds of my characters, imagining what they would see and feel. Books or online research may tell me the streets would be illuminated by gaslight, for instance. But what kind of glow would my characters see from those gas lamps? Would there be pockets of darkness between the lamps (and if so, would danger lurk there)? What sounds would my character hear on an evening stroll through town—the clip-clop of horses’ hooves on a dusty Western street? The heels of cowboy boots thudding along a boardwalk? Digging for details like that not only make for a richer texture overall, but can open up exciting possibilities for story events!

Amy: Are any of the places and characters in Truth Be Told based on fact?

Most of the book is based purely on my imagination, but I enjoyed slipping in a few actual sites and people from Arizona history. The Eleventh Infantry Band, which performs for the citizens of Granite Springs, was stationed at nearby Fort Whipple, and was directed by Achille LaGuardia, just as we see in the story. If the name LaGuardia sounds familiar, you may be thinking of Achille’s son, Fiorello, who spent some of his childhood years at Fort Whipple before growing up to become the well-known mayor of New York City.

The Hotel Burke, where Ben Stone stays during his visit to Prescott, was the original name of the present-day Hotel St. Michael, which stands on the corner of Gurley and Montezuma, across the street from the Courthouse Plaza. I’ve enjoyed a number of meals in the hotel’s dining room, which offers a marvelous view of downtown Prescott.

Amy: Here are a few quick ones just for fun. Carol, fill in the blanks!

  • If I could travel in a time machine, the first place/time I’d visit is… sometime at the end of the 19th century or the very beginning of the 20th. Big changes were taking place in technology, and there was a surge of excitement about the future and the wonders it might hold, along with a sense of optimism and patriotism that often seems lacking today. I would love to witness that firsthand!
  • A style from the 1800s that I’d like to bring back is…those gored skirts with the fullness in the back and the full-sleeved, long-waisted bodices. Fashions for women were becoming less restrictive and far more practical. And bustles were a thing of the past, thank goodness!

    Printing Press

    A Washington Hand Press, just like the one Amelia used, from the Print Shop at Sharlot Hall Museum.

  • My least favorite part of the research process is…having to pull myself away from the research to start writing!
  • A “fun fact” I discovered while researching this novel is…before I started writing Truth Be Told, I was aware that all the type for the stories printed in a newspaper had to be set by hand, but I never took time to think about how many individual pieces of type would be involved in one issue of a four-page weekly. The sheer numbers were staggering! Thousands of pieces of type would have to be set in place each week. And it never occurred to me that every single one of those pieces would have to be sorted back into their places in the type case once the paper was printed. Distributing and redistributing the type was a never-ending process. May I just say how grateful I am for the word processing program on my laptop?

Cox_Carol1  To get to know Carol a little better, stop by her website or like her author Facebook page!

All right, readers, your turn to answer one of the questions I posed to Carol: what style from bygone days would you like to see make a comeback? (Men or women, from Bible times to the Middle Ages to the Civil War to the 1950s…anything goes!)

 

Alaska: a History of Adventure

Pettrey_DaniThis week, we have a guest on the blog: Dani Pettrey! Her ALASKAN COURAGE series takes place in a state most of us would love to visit. In case you can’t book a flight and head out there yourself, you can learn a little bit about Alaska as Dani shares some facts from her research for the books. Enjoy!

5 Fun Facts about the McKenna Family’s Home State

Alaska is a land of extremes. It’s the Northernmost, Westernmost (and Easternmost! Its string of islands stretches all the way into the Eastern Hemisphere) state in the US. It’s the biggest state, with the brightest summers, the darkest winters, and the most uninhabited land. With excitement written into the history of every river and mountain, it’s no surprise the adventure-loving McKennas feel so at home here.

Did you know…Submerged-TP_4color+DBoss+MKote.indd

  • In the middle of the Bering Strait off the coast of Alaska, you’ll find Russia’s Big Diomede Island, and the United States’s Little Diomede Island, less than 3 miles apart from each other. This puts the two countries not only within eyeshot of each other on a clear day, but also within (hypothetical) walking distance when the water freezes. No wonder Russia and Alaska have such a closely-tied history… something Bailey discovered first-hand in Submerged!

Continue reading

How to Avoid Spoilers

So, all of your friends have read the latest suspense release from your favorite author . . . except you. It’s been a busy month, or you’re on a library waiting list, or you have to finish another book first. Whatever the case, you’re likely to hear people talking about it. Here’s how to avoid hearing someone ruin the ending for you.

You're actually too late to pre-order Undetected. It released on 4/29!

You’re actually too late to preorder Undetected. It released on 4/29!

Preorder. This one is entirely preventive. If you’re the first one to order and read the book, no one can beat you to it, right?

Know the potential hazards. In case you missed out on preordering, here are some good Plan Bs. List your friends who are dedicated readers, the ones most likely to out-read you and get to the last chapter before you’ve even started. Feel free to communicate to them that no, you have not read the wonderful new release and would prefer that its plot not be discussed in detail when you’re around. If you practice, you can even say this in a nice way. Or just wear a T-shirt that says, “No one talk about [Title Name] for the next month!”

Have someone screen the Amazon reviews. Can’t stay away from those blurbs under the purchase button while you wait for the book to ship? Not all Internet consumers are sensitive to little etiquette details like the fact that the murderer’s name should not be written in all caps in the first sentence of the review. So if you have to look at reviews, have a disinterested third party scan them for you first. Continue reading

Internal Conflict: Writers Weigh In

Conflict. It’s what makes readers keep turning pages late into the night, and what helps writers know what to put on the page next. Some conflicts are fairly obvious: blizzards, runaway trains, or moustache-twirling villains are pretty easy to identify as the enemy.

But what happens when your real enemy is . . . you?

That’s what writers call internal conflict, and it can be subtle.

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As I read this month’s releases from Bethany House, I noticed that all of the main characters had a great story arc involving internal conflict. Yes, things are happening outside of them: a mistaken identity, hostage negotiation, impending murder, and blackmail. But what really drew me into the story were the unique and nuanced issues that each character faced. Here, the authors and I talk about the characters’ internal conflicts.

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To learn more about Judith and her books, go to judithmccoymiller.com.

Andrea Wilson
From A Shining Light by Judith Miller

Judith’s Take: For several years Andrea Wilson faced the consequences of a bad choice. A choice that destroyed her trust. Now, unexpected events have thrust her into life among the Amana Colonists in Iowa. If she is to ever find the peace, safety, and love she desires, she must learn to trust God as well as the people who have given her shelter. When trust proves more difficult than she anticipated, she must decide if she will rely upon her own understanding or finally trust God.

Amy’s Take: Sometimes communities like Amana are so peaceful that they seem far away from the problems of the outside world. When Andrea brought some of those problems into Amana, I loved watching how the people there loved and protected her. Sometimes trust doesn’t come easily, and I appreciated the realistic way Andrea struggled with that. Continue reading

8 Things to Do While Waiting For the Next Book

Hooked on a series? Stuck on book two of a trilogy that ends on a cliffhanger? (I’m talking about you, Patrick Carr.) Have a favorite author whose next book won’t come out for sixth months?

I’m with you on this one. I may be a fiction publicist by job title, but I’m a reader at heart. And let me tell you, the time it takes to get to the next book can drag on.

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If you’re a fan waiting for the next book, here are some fun things to do to lessen the agony of waiting . . . at least a little bit.

One: Cast it. Pretend that you’re a big-time producer casting your favorite book as a movie. Which actors and actresses would you pick for the main roles? Fill out your dream cast list and ask a few friends to do the same. It can be fun to compare notes . . . and explain why your choices are clearly the best.

Some of our authors already do this...here's Gemma Arterton, who Elizabeth Ludwig cast as the lead in No Safe Harbor on her Pinterest board.

Some of our authors already do this…here’s Gemma Arterton, who Elizabeth Ludwig cast as the lead in Tide and Tempest on her Pinterest board.

Two: Start a book club. Why? Not just because books are best shared, but because misery loves company. If you hook all of your friends on your favorite book, then you’ll have a circle of other people to join you in anxiously checking Amazon for the pre-buy of the next one. If you start an official club, check out our resource page for book clubs. But your “book club” could be just getting together with a few friends to chat over brunch about your favorite books.

Three: Make a countdown calendar. This is especially fun if you have friends to join you. Mark the release date on your calendar and do something related to the book once a month as you count down. If it’s an Amish novel, try some new recipes (check out these delicious-looking ones on Beverly Lewis’s website). When it’s a historical romance you’re eagerly awaiting, find out if there’s a historical landmark from that time period nearby (or even make some vacation plans). Maybe your countdown can be reading (or re-reading) one of the author’s previous books per month. Time flies when you’re having fun! Continue reading