Why write historical fiction?

When I was seven, the woman who had raised my mother died, leaving Mom the 1830s Greek Revival in upstate New York that she had inherited about 1910. Built as a wedding present, the house was in our family from about 1900 to the early 70s.

Mom took me and one of my brothers to stay, over the course of two summers, to sort out and clean out this treasure. What a wond1erful house to live in as a kid!

There were seven bedrooms and two attics and a barn and tons of places to lose yourself in. My days were spent imaging what life had been like when the house was new…and to be prepared, at all times, to meet any ghosts that might inhabit the place. Sadly, I found none.

But I did fall in love with the place, even if it had no plumbing, skittish electricity and mice you could hear clambering through the walls at night. This house was the birthplace of my love of history, which has grown to something a bit too near an obsession, if the collections of stuff in our house is anything to judge by.

Some of it is from this house. I have the 1700s secretary with hand-blown, rippling glass in its windows, china from the 1880s and Civil War-era photographs of long forgotten children. There are many more artifacts, scattered about our family, so the daily lives of those long gone relatives continue, in a way.

Smelling old books, fingering silver with faded monograms, worn Victorian carpets and trunks full of clothes from every vintage all served to hone my interest in all things old. So, it’s all due to my two summers in this house – summers I’ve never forgotten.

And, as I began writing stories about this same time, this house was always a figure in my plots.

Mom did sell the house, and I was thrilled to find out, four decades later, that it not only still stands but is now a fascinating bed and breakfast, run by the couple who purchased it from her all those years ago.

If you find yourself in upstate New York, make time to stay at the Charlotte Amalie in Peterboro and know it fueled the imagination of a young girl.

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