Monday, March 19, 2012
Guest Post - Christy-Award Winning Author, Cathy Gohlke
Today, we're welcoming Cathy Gohlke, author of two Christy-award winning books. Her latest novel, "Promise Me This," involved extensive research on the Titanic, its passengers, and the time period. I asked her to share her adventures and the development of this story. Here's Cathy.
Thank you so much, Susan! It's been an exciting journey.
Research for this book was fascinating! It began at a discount table in a bookstore, the moment I happened across a copy of a portion of Titanic's manifest, and found the name of a third class passenger, Owen George Allum, a London gardener sailing from Southampton, England.
My great-grandfather emigrated from England a few short years before Titanic sailed. Unable to find work as the gold-leaf artist he was, he embraced a lifelong hobby and was employed as a gardener for a wealthy Buffalo family. A Master gardener, he created beautiful arbors and arches of roses and developed new strains of flowers. I thought, what an interesting character those two combined would make!
I read a great many books on Titanic, poured over public inquiry records from America and England, toured exhibits in museums in America and Southampton, England, then trekked back and forth through Southampton, recreating as best I could the life of the ship's crew and their families (before and after the tragedy). I spent days in London absorbing its history, life, and atmosphere, as well as the story of John Bunyan's, "The Pilgrim's Progress," interesting features of Bunhill Cemetery, and Britain's experience in WWI.
I haunted a half dozen used bookstores tucked into the most intriguing places from Lincoln to London to Southampton, then headed across the English Channel, saying good-bye to Dover's white cliffs and hello to Calais, France.
The next year, my husband, son, and I toured numerous WWI sites in France (east to west). In Berlin, Germany, our son flew home, and our daughter joined us for treks through Germany and Poland. Museums, historic sites, and individuals helped me flesh out the stories of each of my characters in ways I could not from this side of the Atlantic.
I read all of Charles Haas' work on Titanic and Lyn MacDonald's books on WWI. Digging up details of the American Ambulance Field Service in France was more challenging, but it was all pure joy.
When I finally returned to the U.S., I spent a few weeks in Cape May County, NJ (where I set Allen's Run gardens, modeled after Leaming's Run Gardens in Swainton). The Cape May County Historical Society staff and the Cape May County public librarians were wonderful companion sleuths, as was an elderly local historian.
Susan here. :) This post was originally part of the upcoming interview, but I wanted to give it prime space. While not all of us can travel far and wide, Cathy's research highlights some tools we can apply to our own writing experience.
Question for writers: What part of Cathy's research stood out to you? Please share some of your own favorite research tips.
Question for readers: How important is setting and time period in the books you read? Please elaborate.