In today’s world of the internet, email, GoogleEarth and Skype, research has never before been so much at our fingertips. I love the fact that if I’m in the midst of a flurry of story, I can look up facts almost instantaneously. But nothing is more fun, or gratifying, than traveling to your source! Before I ever sit down to write, I love hopping in a car or boarding a plane and chasing the story firsthand. Meeting the experts and treading the same path my ancestors did is inspiring. This album holds some of my favorite pictures of the research trips that went into writing my first novel, A PLACE IN HIS HEART.
My journey in many ways began on this trip with my parents and my daughters. Here I am in front of the Tower of London. I drove – on the wrong side of the road, of course! – and my dad navigated. Most of our trip was spent in London and Devonshire, though we spotted a Horton church along the way!
Directly across the road from the Barnabas Horton home site is the old cemetery where Barnabas Horton was laid to rest. His grave is still marked by a massive slab of blue slate with the words of the epitaph he is said to have written still legible.
The Reverend John Youngs, the first pastor of the church in Southold, is buried there as well. I have never found the grave of Mary Horton, my ninth great-grandmother. Most likely her tombstone deteriorated before the names were recorded in the church registry.
The 17th Century English Village is a recreation of the village that was built by the Pilgrims of the Mayflower, along the coast of Plimoth Harbor, MA. When you step inside, the year is 1627 and the people you meet will stay in character no matter what you ask them! And they love questions! A researcher’s dream come true!
Next to the English Village is the outdoor exhibit of the Wampanoag Village. The Native People you will meet here are dressed in native costume and teach the Wampanoag culture from a modern perspective. I loved watching the ladies roast a turkey over an open fire, using a feathered turkey wing to fan the smoke. I was intrigued by the demonstration of burning out the hollow of a canoe from a log. And a glimpse at how the children play brought home the realization that children love the same toys and games throughout the centuries and cultures: dolls and working miniatures of what their parents use daily!
Research was never more enjoyable – or tastier – than the day I spent with Alice Ross in her Hearth Studio located in Smithtown, NY on Long Island. I learned from an expert what it was like to preserve, cook and bake in the 17th century! This is Alice with her dog, Honey. She converted a carriage house into her studio with an authentic 10-foot hearth, complete with antique pots and historic utensils.
The Blue Slate and Other Artifacts
I found the story of Barnabas and his blue slate fascinating. Family lore says he brought it with him when he sailed from England on The Swallow. But 19th century historians said that he most likely had it imported at a later date. I used both opposing views in my first novel, A PLACE IN HIS HEART. My working title for this book was THE BLUE SLATE. There is a quarry of blue slate near the village of Mowsley, England, where Barnabas was born that produces the same slate on Barnabas’s grave.
Sisters’ Southold Getaway
In the fall of 2008, shortly before starting my novel, I brought my two sisters and sister-in-law to visit Southold with me. I hope the pictures below capture all of the fun and flavor of the town of Southold and the North and South Forks of Long Island. A more beautiful spot is hard to find, and from farm to shore, shopping to sipping, museums to dining, we filled our days with rich memories.