Researching the Revolution – Guest Post and Giveaway from Christine Blevins

Thank you to Christine Blevins, author of “The Tory Widow” (link goes to my review) for sharing her experiences in writing historical fiction with us today.  Don’t forget to read all the way to the bottom for giveaway information!

tory-widow“Boy – you must do a lot of research…”

I hear this often – usually accompanied by a puckered brow and a worrisome shake of the head. I am always a bit bemused by this concern. For historical novelists, research is an exciting component of the writing process. Research is where story ideas are born, and where I really get to know my time period and learn all the nitty-gritty details that help to make my story come alive.

I actually have to temper my proclivity to become hijacked by the research. I will often pause when wandering between websites or library stacks ask my self questions like “Okay Chris, do you really need to know the differences between a barkentine and a brigantine?” or “Does it really matter whether women in 1776 tied their garters above or below the knee?” The problem is, most of the time, the answer is “yes”.

My most favorite research is the kind that results in an “ahhh!”– when my newfound enlightenment raises the curtain and I can fully envision a scene. These moments are sometimes sparked by something other than information found in a book or on the internet.

toppling-1
When I was writing The Tory Widow, I became stymied trying to make sense of all the parts and pieces I had gathered pertaining to a particular mob scene I was working into the story. On July 9th, 1776, General George Washington gathered his troops on the Commons in New York City (today’s City Hall Park) for one of the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence. After the reading, the happy rebels – soldiers and citizens – marched down to the Bowling Green, where the exulting  mob toppled the immense gilded statue of King George III. The statue’s head was severed with an ax, mounted to a pike and paraded around the city. The engravings and paintings of this famous event were all executed many years after the fact, and the varied artists’ viewpoints do not mesh with many of the facts in the historical record. I was having difficulty imagining the scene, and figuring out how to weave my characters into it.

There are few vestiges of colonial New York existing in modern-day New York, but one is the wrought iron fence that surrounds the Bowling Green. As chance would have it, I had a day-trip to NYC scheduled for a meeting with Jackie Cantor, my editor at Berkley, and I decided I would also take some time and pay a visit the Bowling Green.

toppling-2There weren’t many people out braving the cold that winter day, but with a large chai latte in hand, and all my research roiling around in my head, I walked the circumference of the Green to get a feeling for the space. I stepped up on the curb running along the base of the fence and peered through the iron pickets, trying to imagine what it might have been like on that rainy, hot July day in 1776. As I ran my fingertips over the tops of the fence posts, I could feel the rough marks left where decorative cast iron crowns had been sawed off by the rebels to rid themselves of all monarchal symbols.

So, I started to think about what happened to the toppled statue, and what might have happened to the little crowns, and I thought, “How cool would it be, to have one of those discarded crowns…”

The scene then came to me in a rush. I began writing in the cab on the way to LaGuardia. By the time I landed at O’Hare, I had ten very scribbled up pages in my spiral notebook – a first draft!

So, you might wonder, what did happen with the toppled statue and the little crowns?

Most of ol’ King George was recycled, revolutionary-style. A good portion of the much-needed lead was melted and cast into musket balls – ammunition the Continental soldiers used to “make an impression” upon the Redcoats. According Massachusetts’ ex-governor Thomas Hutchinson’s diary, the severed head was stolen by Loyalists and smuggled to England. The head was seen briefly in the home of Lord and Lady Townsend in 1777, and has not been seen since. Loyalists managed to salvage a few bits, as some pieces resurfaced years later, buried in different locations. A few of these fragments, including the horse’s tail can be seen at New York’s Historical Society Museum.

As for the little fencepost crowns – read the The Tory Widow, and find out what might have happened with one of them 😉blevins-1

Up the Rebels!!

Christine Blevins

PS
To Chicagoland lovers of historical fiction:
I will be reading the mob scene at the Bowling Green and signing copies of The Tory Widow this Saturday, April 11th, 2pm at the Barnes and Noble at Oak Brook Mall.

Christine has graciously agreed to giveaway one copy two copies of “The Tory Widow” to a lucky readers anywhere in the world!  She says, “Christine Blevins does not discriminate against readers by location, and will ship anywhere in the whole wide world.” In addition to a copy of “The Tory Widow,” the winners will also receive an 18th century survival packet (aka, lavender water and a hankerchief).  To enter, leave a message sharing your favorite period in history in your country of birth or residence.  You can gain an extra entry by blogging or twittering about this contest, but you must leave a SEPARATE comment with the link to your blog entry/tweet.  Winners will be chosen by random.org after the contest closes on Friday, April 24th.

lavendar-water

80 comments to Researching the Revolution – Guest Post and Giveaway from Christine Blevins

  • I love reading historical fiction, and this sounds like a really interesting book, so I’d love to win a copy.

    My favourite period of history here in the UK is the Tudors – so much was changing at that time, but there was still the massive class divides + disease + other tradegy that contributes towards a great story!

    Jackie (Farm Lane Books)’s last blog post..My first week on Twitter

  • I so want to read this book! I love the idea that it takes place during this time period because I can’t remember reading any books that take place during these times! I would have to say that my favorite time period in the United States is the Civil War Period, but that’s only because most of the U.S. historical fiction books that I’ve read take place around the Civil War.

    Julie P.’s last blog post..Review: The Ten Year Nap

  • I also tweeted about this giveaway!

    Julie P.’s last blog post..Review: The Ten Year Nap

  • I adore historical fiction and this guest post really made me want to find out where those little crowns may have gone.

    My favorite historical event or period would be the revolutionary war and the time of Paul Revere and the Boston Tea Party. I love that these rebels dressed up in Indian attire and set the tea into the sea in protest and that they organized themselves in a unique way to fight off the British.

    I also love researching and can understand how authors may get carried away with the research. It must be difficult.

    Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit)’s last blog post..An Offer You Can’t Refuse by Jill Mansell

  • Super post. Thanks so much for sharing. I was born in the USA and I’m torn between two specific events as my favorite, but both occurred in the middle to late 1800s: Civil War era or pioneer era. Hard to choose. Can I say 1860 to 1890?

    Beth F’s last blog post..Challenge: Cozy Mystery Challenge 2009

  • I am an Indian. So my favourite time of History is when we got our independence in 1947, which is fairly new!

    I read Midwife of the Blue Ridge by her and liked it very much. Here is my review of it:

    http://readingandmorereading.blogspot.com/2009/01/tss-midwife-of-blue-ridge-by-christine.html

    I would like tro read this too.

    Do count me in.

    gautami.tripathy[at]gmail.com

    gautami tripathy’s last blog post..Cover Attraction: A Walk to the Hills of the Dreamtime by James Vance Marshall

  • Oh I love well researched historical fiction. I’ve been wanting to read this one. I’ve been to Bowling Green but I didn’t know about the fence. I’m going to have to pop down there and check it out sometime. My husband I used to meet at a bar down there called Fraunces Tavern which has been around since 1762. Apparently the founder hosted the Sons of Liberty and personally knew Washington. On the building there is a plaque that states that Washington gave his farewell address to his officers there in 1783. It was originally called the Queen’s Head.

    Anyway, enough of my rambling. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • I loved reading how the author came up with a way to fit the crown’s into her story!! I’m really interested in reading this because I love history and I personally think it would be fun to do all of that research!! If I ever get to NY someday I will have to check out that site for sure.

    Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!!

    Staci’s last blog post..Library Loot- April 8

  • For the USA I enjoy learning more history on the immigrants, I have traced my ancestors from Ireland and England. I love to hear about all the issues they faced!
    Please enter me in the contest, marieburton2004 at yahoo dot com

    Marie’s last blog post..Waiting on Wednesday

  • Thanks for this post. I enjoyed reading about how those “Ahhh” moments happen. They happen for this reader of historical fiction as well. I have two favorite periods in US history: the pioneer/western era (1840-1860) and World War !!.

    Margot’s last blog post..Wondrous Words #9

  • MJ

    This is absolutely fabulous. I first added this book to my TBR list from the review here, and now this interview is right up my alley of interests. I would absolutely love to win a copy.

    My favorite bit of history here in the US (my family has been here since the early 1500s- before then Scotland and England) would be the revolutionary war. I do a bit of genealogy with my father as a hobby, and perhaps it is because this is the time period that we can find the most sources of data, but I love it. The individual family stories and knowing what people did in honor of their patriotism, just incredible.

    MJ’s last blog post..Teaser Tuesday

  • I liked the time period when settlers really began moving across the prarie and rocky mountains – and during the Gold Rush!

    Kristi’s last blog post..Winner! – 10 Things I Hate About Christianity

  • I never like this question about choosing a favorite period in history. If you gave me a selection of historical fiction books set in the US (I was born in Ohio), all from a different time period… oh, better yet–if I were writing about some period of American history, I’d probably pick something from the late 1800’s. (There are way too many interesting things that have happened to pick just one, though! I must object to this question!)

    You know, I just attended a writing festival, and one of the speakers was Anthony Dalton, presenting on the importance of research. He’d written a book about this writer Tristan Jones (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tristan_Jones), who was a fantastic story-teller but who was also a consummate liar when he said he wrote about his experiences. He sounds like an interesting character, but my favorite part of the presentation was when Dalton said he had to rewrite the book–which was already released–because at 4 o’ clock one morning, he got a phone call from a woman claiming to be Tristan Jones’s daughter. And she could prove it. Dalton had found no evidence of Tristan Jones’s family in his previous research, though he’d looked, and Jones’s agent had no knowledge of a family. Crazy, eh?

    Jena’s last blog post..Oonagh by Mary Tilberg

  • lindymc

    Colonial and Revolutionary America are fascinating eras in our history, but probably my favorite is the Civil War era. That said, I loved Midwife of the Blue Ridge and am anxious to read Tory Widow. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Riva

    I’m a history major and my area of specialization was the American Revolution. I love reading about this era and really admire the folks on both sides of the issue -they were fighting for what they thought was best for the country.

    I’d love to read this book – it sounds fascinating!

    Riva
    dulcibelle [at] earthlink[dot]net

  • I’d love to read this novel! Now, not a lot of exciting historical stuff has happened in Alberta where I live but I love to go back over the older archives at the library, etc and see what the city I live in looked like when it was just dirt roads and downtown was just a main street with horse drawn carriages still. It’s fascinating to see it then and then see what it’s evolved into today where there isn’t a spare inch of space anymore. Thanks so much for a great giveaway.
    bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

  • Well off the top of my head my favorite period in the US was right before The Civil War and also the 1930’s-1940s.

    Ladytink_534’s last blog post..An Anthology of Birthday’s With Bite!

  • Fyrefly

    For US history, I think my favorite is anything pioneer-y – but the specific dates depends on which frontier we’re talking about. :) Thanks for the giveaway!

  • This is a really interesting guest post. I enjoyed reading about how The Tory Widow came into being. I just finished it last night and will be posting my review first thing next week. Who ever wins the book will love the survival kit!

    Literate Housewife’s last blog post..#153 ~ The Last Witch of Langenburg

  • I would like to enter, if I may. My favorite period of American history . . . The Civil War. I actually haven’t read too much set in that time period fiction wise, which is sad, I know. But it is a time period in my country’s history which I have studied quite a bit about and have always been interested in.

    Literary Feline’s last blog post..Guest Appearance: Christopher Meeks, Author

  • I wasn’t going to enter, but then I got to the part about the 18th-century survival kit, and that’s just plain hilarious. Count me in!

    My favourite time period would probably be from WWI through to the 1930s. It wasn’t until the first world war that Canada really came into its own as a nation. And there are a lot of really interesting local personages from that area and through until the Depression era — Sir Henry Pellatt, for example, who built a castle in the middle of Toronto because he’d always wanted one. Talk about making your own dreams come true!

    Christine’s last blog post..Review: The Temperance Brennan series, by Kathy Reichs

  • Cheryl S.

    I love to read historical fiction. Thanks for the great interview.

    I was born in the US & my favorite time period is when our new country was in it’s earliest stages of becoming a nation.

    Cheryl
    megalon22[at]yahoo[dot]com

  • mindy

    sounds fascinating thanks for the giveaway

  • Claire

    My favorite period of history in the US has got to be the 20s… everyone living it up after the war, unaware of what lay in wait for the 30s.

  • Kiki

    I’m a fan of the Belle Epoque…when the really rich were REALLY rich.

    Kiki
    ParkingGoddessFTW at gmail dot com

  • Deborah R

    My favorite period of history here in the US is the Industrial Revolution. It’s not romantic in any way (darn it!) but it’s full of innovation and boldness.

  • MMW

    I would love to win this book. I love historical fiction.

    My favorite time period to read about is the Civil War era (not very romantic but always a great period to read about!)

    THANKS!

  • Nicole C.

    I love historical fiction!! It is my favorite genre! I love any time period from any country!!! If I had to pick one from my country it would be the Civil War time period!!

  • Sharon Fairclough

    I love historical novels my fave is christian historical novels 1800’s – 1900’s period and I love when Hallmark channel show these types of movies. Thanks for the giveway

    sharr1226 at yahoo dot com

  • My favourite time would be settlement. The idea of the First Fleet landing in Botany Bay, the conflict with the native Aboriginals and the rapid growth that followed.

    Marg’s last blog post..How much room is there in a suitcase anyway?

  • My favorite time period to read about would be the French Revolution. I have been fascinated with it since a history class I had last year titled Napoleon and the French Revolution. Thank you for the giveaway

    Jessica Marie’s last blog post..Friday Finds

  • My fav time in my country, well 14th century when they started to build castles…we may not have many here in Finland but a few :) and I do live the middle ages

    blodeuedd’s last blog post..Happy Easter :) from my mini vacation

  • Teresa W.

    I’d like to be included, count me in!

  • Paula

    My favorite historical time periods would be the Tudors and the Civil War. Actually an historical fiction time period is fascinating for me to read about. This book sounds like a great read!

  • I would love to be entered for this book!

    My favorite time period to research right now is the turn of the late century. I live in Seattle and love the time just after the great fire, here, that created “underground Seattle” and the rebuilding of the city.

    Robin’s last blog post..Pop! Goes the zombie

  • I love the colonial period of American history – and that’s what we’re studying right now in our homeschooling history. We’ve been having fun watching Liberty’s Kids on DVD.

    nnjmom at yahoo dot com

    Carrie K.’s last blog post..Bookish links for Saturday, April 11, 2009

  • I blogged about this giveaway:

    http://booksandmovies.today.com/2009/04/11/bookish-links-for-saturday-april-11-2009/

    nnjmom at yahoo dot com

    Carrie K.’s last blog post..Bookish links for Saturday, April 11, 2009

  • Debbie

    Please include me in your giveaway.
    Thanks
    Debbie
    debdesk9@verizon.net

  • One of my favorite times in history is that of slavery in the U.S., my country of birth. I think it must be the most shameful time in history! It still amazes me, how people lived through it all and how it was allowed to happen!

    I added this book to my TBR and would love to win!

    teddyr66 at yahoo dot com

    Teddy’s last blog post..A Note to My Readers and Blog Friends

  • Amanda

    Being an Australian, descended from a First Fleet Sailor and a convict, my favourite time period would be transportation and early settlement. I really enjoyed Morgan’s Run by Colleen McCullough, and The Secret River by Kate Greville, as they really bought the lifes of my ancestors to life.

  • My favorite period in American history is the 60’s, particularly the brief period of time that JFK was President. He was such an inspirational leader, I wish I had been alive then to see him myself. Plus, the country underwent major changes during that period, with the civil rights marches and everything.

    tiffanyak1986(at)hotmail(dot)com

    Tiffany’s last blog post..MY FIRST GIVEAWAY!! Jantsen’s Gift

  • kim v

    I think the 40’s were really interesting.
    Thanks for the giveaway!
    kimspam66(at) yahoo(dot)com

  • This book has been on my radar for I while, and I would dearly love to have a copy. I don’t generally have much luck with giveaways (read “any luck”), but I’ll keep my fingers crossed for this one.

  • Sandra K321

    My favorite historical era is the late 1800’s/early 1900’s because so much was going on during that time and changes, good and bad, were coming quickly. I love historical fiction because it shows what life was like in a way that isn’t dry.

  • Andrea Z

    I personally don’t have a favourite historical period. I find British history fascinating and as a North American, it is interesting to read both about the French & British to understand our own countries and how they came to be founded. I would love to be entered in this giveaway and this book has been added to my TBR list!

    Thanks for the opportunity,
    Andrea Z – Ontario, Canada

  • desiree kelley

    I would of liked to exprienced the 60’s