Research for my second in the Promise series historical novels has been tedious, tooth-pulling and loads of fun. I’m writing about a Shawnee, Oklahoma, family who had enough drama in their lives for a TV serial. Some of which cannot be written about of course, but family secrets have a way of surfacing and influencing the next generations, even if never vocalized or recorded. Just warning you who think I have revealed too many family secrets and want to keep yours hidden.
Some of the scandalous parts of the Trimble and Pope family are in the books. However, nothing is included that would embarrass my grandmother. The audience is Christian and all questionable topics are handled with care and sensitivity.
That said, I went to the Shawnee library to research 1938 local events on microfiche because that year’s happenings were slim in my book. (The book is from 1936 to 1939). I found several newspaper articles on President Roosevelt and his entourage riding a train through Shawnee, stopping for a short speech before continuing on to Oklahoma City.
It seemed highly likely that Sibyl, my main character, would attend. She was politically minded and interested in world events. I wanted to write her standing and watching the President, Fremont reluctantly beside her. Awed and impressed. Summertime hot and uncomfortable.
These Promise series books are based on a true story. Real people. Real places. So I was not sure this actually happened. Aunt Blanche never mentioned it, nor anyone else I interviewed.
One of the characters from this book who is still living is Aunt Frances.Frances turns 90 years old in a few weeks but her mind is sharp and she has been an invaluable source of information. I’ve interviewed her many times. I went to her retirement center home and sat down at her little dining room table and watched as she ate a frozen dinner.
“Do you remember when Roosevelt rode a train through Shawnee?” I asked.
She did not hesitate. “Of course. I was there.”
She was there. That meant her sister Sibyl was probably there too. Frances was eleven years old and went with her mother. She was too short to see over the crowds of grownups trying to get a view of the president but she heard the loudspeaker telling people to stand back. Yes. She was there. She remembered.
I was elated. If I had not found this tidbit in the paper, I would not have thought to ask Frances about it.
Research does that. It brings the past to life, causing us to remember and discover new facts about history that were forgotten or misplaced.
Of course I include this incident in my second book, A Promise Child, Faith, Love and Hope in the 1930s. The first book is on Amazon, A Promise to Break. The book is almost completed and ready to send to the editor.