Wednesday, August 6, 2014

True Characters - Guest Blogger, Carla Olson Gade



I absorb myself in research to learn as much as I can about the setting for my historical novels and novellas. But I have also found a treasure trove of truth life historical figures with which to populate my stories. Often times, instead of inventing my own characters, I have borrowed citizens from the actual local and time period. I have done this which each of my published novels and novellas to date.




My first stop is usually to scan vital records from the time and locale, cemetery records, passenger lists, and possibly first settler’s lists to see the names that were populating the area. This helps me name my fictional main characters and some of the other characters. It also adds a note of authenticity. Unless the reader is well acquainted with the area, the names may mean nothing to them, but if they are, it may be a good idea to have names that fit. I know that just visiting different areas of the country I have heard names that I’ve never come across before so this really isn’t that much extra work to get a few good names, especially surnames. But I’ve also discovered some nice given names as well. How much better when an interesting true life character pops up with a story of their own to tell.

In my novella “Carving the Future” in Colonial Courtships I needed a family with a good solid name,
authentic to colonial New England. I chose Ingersoll, but also had to be certain there wasn’t anyone famous when combining the first names of the characters in this collection about four brothers in mid-18th century Connecticut. We wouldn’t want them being confused with Jared Ingersoll, the stamp officer who was tarred and feathered in pre-revolutionary times! To populate the town I made liberal use of some of the prominent residents of Glastonberry, CT (Glassenbury at the time). The historical society and historical narratives online provided me with some background on people, their residences, and places of business. Rev. Ashbel Woodridge, Dr. Elizur Hale, Col. Thomas Welles became supporting characters in my story. It was tremendous fun visiting the historic town and seeing their homes and getting a sense of their physical presence there. The picture shows me sitting at the home of Col. Thomas Welles, but I took a little creative license and “stole” his homestead to be used as inspiration for the Ingersoll family’s home, the Red Griffin Inn.

Of course a character can be based on a real person’s life, but in The Shadow Catcher’s Daughter I chose to bring to life a true person who took on an important supporting role in the novel. During my research of Western Colorado, I discovered a fascinating book that became a primary source for my setting. Pioneering the San Juans was written by Rev. George Darley, who brought the gospel on snowshoes and preached in saloons to the people on the western slope of Colorado before any churches were built. He had such an interesting story that I made him a mentor to my hero, a trail guide who encountered him as he traveled. My characters also joined Chandler Hayden, a famous surveyor and cartographer, on their journey to establish the boundaries of the four corners of CO, NM, AZ, and UT. Of course, everyone had a job, and the famous civil war photographer is counted as a mutual friend of our shadow catcher (photographer) and Mr. Hayden. Come to find out they actually served in the war in the same infantry, so my heroine’s father found his history as a mutual friend. It’s a small world.


In closing, I’d like to drop a few names from my novel Pattern for Romance that took place in pre-revolutionary Boston. Unless you are a history buff, you may not recognize the name of the pastor/mentor of my hero Joshua Sutton, whose name was found in colonial Massachusetts vital records online, but Reverend Samuel Cooper of the Brattle Street Church in Boston was a real minister who was supportive of the rights of the colonists. But you may recognize some of the other incidental character names such as Sons of Liberty Paul Revere, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, James Otis, William Molineux and our mean, John Mein, the loyalist publisher of The Boston Chronicle. When it came to naming the sheriff and the physician, history had those names already available. My favorite names, however, are fictitious, but ring true to the story in both personality and conflict. I’d like you to meet my heroine and her little sister, Honour and Temperance. They aren’t real. . .but they are true to life.
Congratulations Stitches Thru Time Blog on your birthday!! I’d like to offer a copy of Pattern for Romance for a giveaway to one commenter in the US.

Pattern for Romance (1769, Boston, Massachusetts)
Sometimes God's pattern for our lives can lead us somewhere unexpected.

Honour Metcalf's quilting needlework is admired by a wealthy customer of the Boston Mantua-maker for whom she works. In need of increasing her earnings, she agrees to create an elaborate white work bridal quilt for the dowager's niece. A beautiful design emerges as she carefully stitches the intricate patterns and she begins to dream of fashioning a wedding quilt of her own. When Honour is falsely accused of thievery and finds herself in a perilous
position, merchant tailor Joshua Sutton comes to her aid. As he risks his relationships, reputation, and livelihood to prove her innocence, the two discover a grander plan.


Christian romance author CARLA OLSON GADE writes adventures of the heart with historical roots, including novels Pattern for Romance, The Shadowcatcher’s Daughter, and best-selling Mistletoe Memories. An autodidact, creative thinker, and avid reader, Carla also enjoys genealogy, web design, photography. Carla is an active blogger at Adventures of the Heart and a regular contributor to Colonial Quills. She connects with her readers in many social networking communities as well as her story boards on Pinterest. A native New Englander, she writes from her home in beautiful rural Maine where she resides with her “hero” husband, two adult sons, and first grandchild.

24 comments:

  1. love hearing about your writing/researching process... and def did love discovering your writing in Pattern for Romance! every good wish for your cont'd success !!

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    1. whoops - forgot this important bit if I'm to be a winner !
      pb copy trumps ebk for me =)
      faithhopecherrytea at [gmail.] com
      =))

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    2. Hi Faith!
      Isn't this fun? I love birthday parties! Best of luck in the drawing!

      Amber Schamel
      Bringing HIStory to Life
      www.AmberSchamel.com

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    3. Thank you, Faith. That is a nice encouragement!

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  2. What an interesting post! I love hearing how other authors craft their historical characters. Sam Adams catches my eye because I'm currently working on a series with Murray Pura, Joseph Max Lewis and John Amodeo on the Signers of the Declaration, and Sam is my character. :)
    I LOVE research. To me, it's one of the funnest parts of being an author.

    Amber Schamel
    Bringing HIStory to Life
    www.AmberSchamel.com

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    1. Thanks, Amber. Best to you on your story for the Signers of the Declaration project. I look forward to reading that!

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  3. Historical novels are such fun to research!! great post.

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  4. As a researcher and historian I love to read how others address their research projects. Historywiz1@gmail.com

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  5. It has been my pleasure to accompany you on some of your research trips, Carla. I have a good idea of how much research, both online and in person, is necessary in order to write historical fiction. I continue to be amazed that my "little girl" has such a gift for including both actual and fictional characters in her writing!

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    1. Mom, you are the best research partner ever! Thanks for being my "first editor" and consulting with me on my stories.

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  6. Wonderful post! Until I started to write historical stories myself, I never understood the amount of research, time, and effort that go into each novel. Thank you for sharing, Carla! :)

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    1. There is quite a bit involved, isn't there? But after a while, we can multi-task, looking for bits of information that we can use in many ways. I spend a great amount of time in preliminary research and it really helps ground me for the story.

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  7. I've so admired your style and and voice in your work!
    RESEARCH and I haven't been best buds and since I've only written one HR (will probably never see my agent or an editor's face) I had lots of practice in historical research with that one. Setting was my own home "village" and it was in post CIVIL WAR days - I learned SO MUCH about our community and have come to love it as a result . . .have much more respect for the founding fathers. . . wish it still had the same flavor. ':)
    The research I have to do for my Contemporary WF is totally different and I shudder at some of the things I learn. HR will probably ALWAYS be my favorite genre and your work is a good example of it, Carla!

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    1. Thank you so much, Joy! You've made my day! What you have testified to proves why I love historical research...we become so much richer for what we learn and that would apply to any research, really. Best to you on your writing!

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  8. Carla, I so appreciate all the hard work you put into the writing of your books. I can't imagine how hard it must be but I always say, Great authors write great books." You, my dear, are a great writer!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. I'm humbled and honored, Melanie! Thank you for those encouraging thoughts!

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  9. Sounds like a book I want to read.

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  10. Oh, I love a good name. :) Thanks for sharing how you find some of yours. I too enjoy looking at names on headstones, but I also love picking my aunt's brain for names of my ancestors. I think one of my favorites (which I'm using in a current WIP) is Benin.
    Great post! I think I have your book on my kindle and am going to have to go find it now. :)

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  11. Thank you, Crystal. I love drawing from my ancestors names, too! I've never heard of the name, Benin, so I just looked it up. Meaning: Blessed! That is so nice! And I hope you enjoy my book!

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    1. That's awesome. I'd never looked up the meaning before. Thanks for sharing that. Makes me like the name even more. :)

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  12. Wow! And your book SOUNDS SO GOOD! :D I really enjoy the quilts of love series and that quilt on the cover!?!?!?! GORGEOUS!!!!

    Blessings,
    Amada (pronounced: a.m.a.th.a) Chavez
    amada_chavez{AT}yahoo{DOT}com

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  13. Enjoyed this post Carla bout things you use and how you find those things. I would love to win your book. I love the books about Quilts. Please put my name in. Hoping!
    Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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