Tuesday, February 1, 2011
What I learned from The Werewolf Upstairs
Most authors have to do some type of research. I think of historical authors as the heavy-duty researchers, and those writing about contemporary time periods as less encumbered. According to some--not so. Apparently, contemporary facts are more often challenged than historical accuracy, so you'd better get it right.
I was contacted by a reader about a story I set in New Orleans where the heroine paid $1.75 for the cable car from Canal Street in the French Quarter to the Garden District. She let me know that my heroine got ripped off. Apparently the fare is only $1.25.
What's this have to do with Werewolves and apartment living? Well, I didn't have to research much in the way of Werewolves...or the apartment. I lived in the same neighborhood back in the day, and I've read my share of Werewolf stories, seen movies, and watched a documentary on how the whole myth started in France. But even so, I referred to a list of "pack rules" developed by another author. So that segment wasn't too hard for someone with imagination...but within the story of The Werewolf Upstairs, I included a real robbery that happened in Boston back in the nineties. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist was a high profile art museum robbery that hasn't been solved. The FBI is still offering five-million dollars for information leading to the arrest of the criminals.
I remember the sick feeling that invaded my stomach when I heard that the unique museum had been robbed. I spent many a day there back when I was an art student in need of a tranquil environment within the noisy city. There's no place like it that I know of. It's an actual home, open to the public.
Isabella was shunned by the Boston blue bloods not only for her Italian heritage, but because she didn't behave like the typical matron near the turn of the twentieth century. Her home was built in the Italian style of a square, enclosing a courtyard. She collected art from all over the world and graced her walls with it. Part of her "questionable lifestyle" had to do with having bohemian friends, such as artists and musicians. She hosted many concerts and art shows. Not only that, but she loved the Red Sox and built her home near Fenway Park rather than an upscale neighborhood like Beacon Hill. I think I would have liked her. I certainly admire her as do many Bostonians today.
She left her home to the people of the city, so everyone--rich and poor--could enjoy the arts. It's free, which is why even a poor student like me was able to wander the decorated halls and attend the occasional classical concert. My book shares her story and the details of the heist. I guess it's an homage to the lady who snubbed her nose at being snubbed.
I'm glad I needed to research this person, place and event to keep my story accurate. I learned a little more about the historic landmark and what makes it so important. It was a special place for my hero too. Even werewolves need a place to go where they can let go of their cares and think now and then.
I'll bet she'd have enjoyed my story. I hope you do too.