Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Picture This: A Behind The Scenes Look at Researching Historical Fiction

Congratulations to Linda Andersen who won an autographed copy of Linda Phillips' ARC, CRAZY.

My last few blogs have been heavy on text, so I thought I would do something different for the next two weeks. Today I'm going to share some of the photographs I consult while writing Half-Truths. Next week, you'll meet a few of my experts--from "back in the day," and now. 

With the help of Pinterest and The Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, these images help me create the story of Lillie Harris, my light-skinned African American protagonist who lives in Charlotte, NC in 1950. 

MRS ANNIE TURNBO MALONE A chemist and entrepreneur, Annie Turnbo Malone became a millionaire by successfully developing and marketing hair products for black women in St. Louis. She used her wealth to promote the advancement of African Americans and gave away most of her money to charity. Born on August 9, 1869, in Metropolis, Illinois. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Annie_Malone

Johnson C Smith University
1947 Homecoming 
African American Album 

Rose Morgan - Founder of Rose Meta House of Beauty, one of the largest and most visible African American beauty salons in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s. From Ideas to Independence: A Century of Entrepreneurial Women | NWHM. entrepreuners.nwhm.org 

Pinned from Etsy, this is my model for Lillie's little sister, Gloria.

The Tate Family, 1910
A prominent Charlotte African American Family
Several of Thaddeus' Tate daughters
passed for white. 

"The Tate family lived in this elegant home at 504 East 7th Street. Thaddeus Tate opened a barber shop in 1882 which prospered for over sixty years. He co-founded several of Charlotte's leading black businesses, including the Afro-American Mutual Insurance Company and the Mecklenburg Investment Company." http://www.cmstory.org/african/album/volume1/010.jpg 

Second Ward High School
served black students from 1923-1969.
It was torn down when busing began. 

Second Ward cheerleaders, 1940

A view of homes along East 8th Street in Brooklyn. Area was demolished during urban renewal in the 1960's-1970's. Photo courtesy of Second Ward Alumni Association. 


Bertha Pinckenpack in front of her house on Alexander Street
 with her great-granddaughters, 
Geraldine and Beverly, c. 1950.

Bishop Daddy Grace
was the leader of the United House Of Prayer For All People, 
a Pentecostal denomination that met in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

I study pictures like these for all types of information: people Lillie might have heard about or met; hair, clothing, and shoe styles; neighborhoods she would have walked through; what her school looked like. I never know which image might provide an interesting detail that will inform my work.

How about you? What resources do you use when researching a book?


sheri levy said...

How wonderful to have those historic pictures for your research. Pictures can tell so much!! When I started my story, I researched service dog organizations and interviewed people on the phone. One day I contacted a group only an hour away and they became my resource.I also contacted experts on Edisto Island about Loggerhead turtles. Being able to get information online is fast and so convenient.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're right, Sheri. Sometimes I wonder how anyone wrote a book before the Internet! :)

Kim Van Sickler said...

Those are great pictures, Carol! Yes, pictures do inspire more detail. Definitely!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kim. I'm sure you've looked through a few old pictures yourself!

Rosi said...

Wonderful photos. I can see how they would inspire you. There is no way I would have time to do nearly as much research as I do (which isn't nearly enough) without the internet. We live in interesting times.

Linda A. said...


I'm exciting about winning "Crazy" by Linda Phillips. Thanks to you and Linda.

I often visit the library for fiction and nonfiction books on a topic of interest. I like touring historic houses too.

Melodye said...

I could stare at these pictures for HOURS! Each one has a unique story to tell, but together…wow. I can easily see how a writer might get lost in the details.


That may or may not be what happens to me when I thumb through pictorial archives. So worth it, though, isn't it? The story behind (underneath, through) the story is revealed to us in pictures.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks LInda, Rosi, and Melodye. Research definitely takes time, but it's worth it to make my story authentic (which is what my 92-year-old expert has encouraged me to do!). And yes, I like visiting historic places also, Linda. Thanks for stopping by!

Linda Phillips said...

I know how much research you do, Carol, and I'm always overwhelmingly amazed. Thanks for this inside look into your process as well as this wealth of pictorial history.

Jean said...

Thanks, Carol. I love research, too. I usually get so involved in the research that I have to MAKE myself stop and start writing.

And photos are the BEST kind of research - so much fun.


Carol Baldwin said...

I agree, Jean. Totally!!!

Anna E. G. said...

While I don't use photos from long ago, I will often use illustrations and photography as inspiration for my writing. This was a very interesting blog post Carol. I'll see you this Wednesday at your Mint Hill writing class. :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Anna. See you soon!

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