If you read this blog regularly, you know by now that Jane Thorburn of The Factory Girl and the Fey is loosely (and when I say loosely, I mean waaaayyyy loosely) based on my great-great grandmother.
It has occurred to me that studying my ancestors is a great way to mine for book ideas. There’s my Bohemian great-great grandmother who was first widowed in her early 20s, whose marital history seems to provide more questions than answers. There’s the alleged Civil War battle on a family farm (unconfirmed and possibly a legend, it appears).
There are the Scottish Steins I haven’t been able to connect to my family tree who made bad whisky but had a lot of political clout to keep the upstart Highland distilleries from tapping into their market share. I wrote about them years ago and was gently reminded by a distant relative that we are probably NOT related to them…which shows you my limitations as a genealogist. My brain, alas, is too much “fiction writer.”
Recently my husband and I visited Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts for a brief vacation. We moved to New York State a few years ago and are still exploring the area around us. We stayed in a B&B that was a restored old home, and I saw a sign that said, Isabel N. Chapman. I thought, hmm, we have Chapmans in our family. A quick Ancestry search confirmed that yes, she was potentially a relative (what are the odds of staying in a B&B that was once owned by a distant ancestor?).
A bit more quick digging, and I learned my ancestors played a large part in founding the town of New London, CT, where we were staying. I now have several tabs open of books about my family, including some grotesquely gleeful accountings of the Native Americans they slaughtered.
It’s similar to when I found that yes, we also had slaveowners, especially on my father’s side of the family. Though I’m sure I could come up with a dozen book ideas for these, do I want to? I suppose I could if I could write with the sensitivity such subjects would deserve. Is it a way to atone? I don’t know yet.
What I do know is, The Factory Girl and the Fey began with a genealogical question, and I suspect future books could also spring from this deep well. I also know that I need to start writing a lot faster. The ideas are building up too fast.
The Factory Girl and the Fey is available for pre-order now! A Goodreads giveaway begins October 3. I’ll post the links on social media once that happens.