Why — and How — I Write Historicals

The Reluctant DebutanteBy Becky Lower, author of The Reluctant Debutante

I’ve been in love with the history of the western expansion of the United States since I was a young girl. I’ve always told people I was born a hundred years too late. My teenage years were filled with horse shows, Bonanza, and always, writing.

Thanks to a fertile imagination, I am able to immerse myself into the American history I so care about, by researching the era and plunking my characters into the middle of actual events that helped shape this country.

When my readers tell me they wished they could take the heroine’s place and have her adventures, I consider my job complete.

In my novel, The Reluctant Debutante, I decided early on to let my heroine be a friend of Amelia Bloomer’s in New York and to be a staunch supporter of women’s rights. She convinces her father, the owner of a bank, to let her work alongside him and provide advice for his clients on how to invest their money. She champions railroad stocks and suggests them to most of her father’s clients.

As I was doing my research on major events that took place in America in 1855, I came upon the Gasconade Bridge collapse, which resulted in the largest train disaster of all time. It took place just outside of St. Louis, on an inaugural ride between St. Louis and Jefferson City, MO. The train was filled with supporters of the railroad and high-ranking government officials. I had planned for my hero and heroine to reunite in St. Louis somehow. How perfect, I thought.

But the plot hinged on my heroine knowing how to help injured people. How would a high-bred New York woman know rudimentary first aid? I continued digging through the past and discovered that Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the US, had visited Amelia Bloomer in the spring of 1855 and worked with her to test her theories on how to educate women to become nurses. My heroine became one of her first students.

I love it when history cooperates with my story line.

5 thoughts on “Why — and How — I Write Historicals

  1. Micah Persell

    Becky, I just finished The Reluctant Debutante yesterday morning, and I ADORED your book. Seriously, when I got to the train accident, I asked, out loud, “No, that didn’t really happen, did it?” A quick trip to Wikipedia later, and you were my hero (although, I admit, Joseph has everything I could ever want in a hero…).

  2. Deborah O'Neill Cordes

    Historical authors (and authors of time travels!) have the wonderful task of connecting their stories to real events in history. I love the way things fell into place for you regarding many major events of 1855. Your story was destined to be written! Congrats on a great article, Becky. I can’t wait to read your novel.

  3. Kay

    Historicals have so much depth…I remember starting out with them in reading romance. Adam was my favorite in ‘Bonanza’. Congratulations, Becky!