Drawing Inspiration Subliminally

By Becky Lower, author of The Reluctant Debutante and The Abolitionist’s Secret

The Abolitionist's SecretWhen I made the decision to boomerang back to Ohio to be near family, I had a short list of requirements for the town I chose to live in: It had to be more liberal than conservative; it needed to be filled with old houses, called “century homes” here in the Buckeye state; it must have a small-town feel, but be big enough to offer a variety of entertainment and if it had a movie theatre and a decent library, that would be nice.

I quickly discovered Oberlin College was the first college in the country to admit both blacks and women. Driving around the small town, I noticed many old, quaint, definitely not cookie-cutter homes. There was a wealth of entertainment available free, or at a nominal charge, at a performing arts school. The library proved more than decent. And the movie theatre just reopened after a two-year renovation that includes a state-of-the-art sound system. All systems go.

My historical novels take place in New York, since that’s where the Cotillion made its entrance into the United States culture. In the decade leading up to the Civil War, there were many events, large and small, that shaped our country. One of the major events was the emergence of the Underground Railroad, which escaping slaves followed on their trip to freedom. The Railroad was active in New York, but it was also extremely well-trafficked in Ohio.

As I was putting the finishing touches on my second book, The Abolitionist’s Secret, I was driving with my brother around my little town, giving him an encapsulation of the town’s history. The townspeople who lived here during the era I write about were very active in abolitionist activities, too. In fact, there are two monuments in the town featuring the Underground Railroad.

We passed an old cylindrical Gasholder building, originally built in 1889 for the storage of coal gas. It is now undergoing a massive renovation in order to become a museum about the Underground Railroad. It is a project of the town’s, but is being funded by grants and private donations. When we saw the sign in front of the project—a sign I have seen time and again—we realized the connection between this interpretive center and my book. I decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to the cause, and to help spread the message about this project. You can find out more about it at the town’s website.

Is it coincidence that I’m writing about an abolitionist and the Underground Railroad while I’m living in the town that many people like to say caused the Civil War? Now that I’m putting the pieces together, I think not. Obviously, this is where I was meant to be, and these are the books I was meant to write.

The second book in the Cotillion Series, The Abolitionist’s Secret, is available now! Find out more about Becky Lower by visiting her website.

Where do you draw inspiration from? Share your stories in the comments!