Today, I’m welcoming Edward Londergan and his new novel, Unlike Any Other to the blog. Edward has written a fascinating post about the locations used in his novel, and how he researched them.
One of the most important aspects of research I undertook to write the book is identifying and understanding the physical locations where the story took place. One of the most important aspects of any historical fiction story is the location. Luckily for me, the three places where most of the story takes place are relatively close to my home. Knowing each of the locations well helps me make the reader be there and see it in their mind’s eye. It helps me craft the story better to make it more lifelike. I want the reader to be there. I firmly believe that if the writer can’t see it neither can the reader.
The three main locations are all in Central Massachusetts—the small town of Hardwick, the City of Worcester, and the town of Brookfield. One of the great helps to me was the maps of Revolutionary War era Brookfield drawn by a local historian and cartographer. He put together a series of maps of Brookfield during Bathsheba’s time living there. He did quite a bit of research for the maps and I was lucky enough to learn of them from a mutual acquaintance. Unfortunately, he passed away before I began writing the book, so I could not ask the dozen questions I had for him.
He took great care to get the location of each building of each farm, of the taverns and cemetery. Using his maps and my wonderful and sometimes intimidating imagination, I visualized the village and could walk through it from end to end as if I lived in that moment.
Bathsheba grew up on her father’s estate in Hardwick. He was a wealthy man and owned large tracts of land. A large house sat on the top of a hill that could be seen for miles in every direction. To proclaim his undying allegiance to the British crown, he had a large boulder dragged to the middle of this field. A large hole two feet deep was drilled in it. A tall tree trunk was used as a flagpole from which flew a large Union Jack. Having such a flag on such a tall pole on top of a high hill rubbed many people in pre-Revolutionary War Massachusetts the wrong way. To be able to go to the estate site and gaze across the open fields, see the long stone walls he had built, stand on that boulder and look in the hole, and visualize the flag curling in the breeze made it all come alive for me.
In Brookfield, I could drive and walk the roads where all the buildings once stood that Bathsheba would have known and perhaps visited. The roads of today follow, for the most part, the roads of that time. To go to the location of Bathsheba’s house, which is long since gone having been abandoned and falling down many years ago, and stand where the front steps remain, blocks of granite, a short distance from the well where her husband’s body was put after he was murdered. To walk up the dirt road and know that she once rode her horse on it, walked it as I did, or drove in their carriage along it makes it all real. The church they attended still stands. The town common is the same shape as it was then. Some of the houses surrounding it existed when Bathsheba lived there. She would have walked by these same places.
In my stories, I want to put the reader there. If they realize they’re reading, I’ve failed as a writer. I want my readers to get lost in the story so that the pages seemingly turn themselves. I want the reader to be at the tavern, sit before at a table near the fire on a cold winter day, and see the mug of rum before them.
Having grown up in Worcester, I’m familiar with the city. Knowing the locations of the jail, courthouse, meeting house, Bathsheba’s sister’s estate, and the burying ground all helped me imagine what it was like during those events. Interestingly, Bathsheba and her unborn child, killed when she was executed, were buried on her sister’s estate, which in 1905 was gifted to the City of Worcester and is now Green Hill Park. She and her baby lie somewhere within the park in an unmarked grave.
Thank you so much for sharing your research with me. It sounds amazing. I do love a good map. Good luck with your new book.
Here’s the blurb:
The Story of An 18th Century Woman from A Prominent New England Family Who Went from A Life of Privilege to The Gallows
Bathsheba Spooner was the daughter of Timothy Ruggles, a general in the French and Indian War, president of the Stamp Act Congress, Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, and a leading loyalist in Massachusetts during the Revolutionary War; the epitome of upper class.
Like her father, Bathsheba was smart, strong-willed, and a staunch British loyalist. Forced to marry a man she did not love, Bathsheba withstood her husband’s abuse for years until a young Continental soldier entered her life. But when this well-heeled mother of three small children discovered she was pregnant with the soldier’s child, her thoughts quickly turned to murder.
Based on a true story, the events that follow Bathsheba’s life, her decisions, and her ultimate demise will show readers that Bathsheba Spooner was, in fact, Unlike Any Other . . .
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Meet the Author
Ed Londergan is the author of the award-winning books The Devils’ Elbow and The Long Journey Home. Having researched American history for many years, he is a frequent speaker with a focus on colonial Massachusetts. A graduate of Holy Cross, he lives in Warren, Massachusetts.
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