During the last eight months I’ve been visiting the American frontier in 1811 and 1812.
For the first four months, I traveled through books from my own and the county’s library. Considering the winter weather, armchair travel was definitely the best way to go. I found the events, people, and culture I came across fascinating. I’ve been reading historical novels and biographies since childhood and I’ve visited dozens of historic sites, but I knew little about life in that period and place.
Those months of time travel were preparation, not destination. I spent a month using what I’d learned to create my own little corner in that world, imagining people like those who lived there, the homes and town they lived in, and their reactions to one of the greatest natural disasters in American history.
In March I started writing their story. In spite of all I’d read, I kept running into new questions.
1. How did people greet each other?
2. What kinds of cows did farmers have?
3. How long would it take a flatboat to travel from where my characters lived to New Orleans?
4. What coins or bills did the people use?
5. How cold was the weather there and to the north?
6. What fruits did people grow?
7. What musical instruments did people play at the Sunday frolics?
8. What did they use for lighting besides candles?
9. What books would a family own besides a bible?
Those are a few of the many questions I had to answer as my characters went about their daily lives. I’ve had a wonderful journey.