Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Real People in Mercury's Rise

Ann Parker, on the second day of a two-week (plus a bit) virtual tour for Mercury's Rise, the newest book in the Silver Rush series.

Today is a "home stop" at my own blog, which features random musings on writing, history, mystery, or whatever crosses my mind. This time (rubbing hands together gleefully), I'm going to talk about using real people in my latest mystery.

Now, there are several kinds of "real" people. There are the people who existed in that time and place. There are a few of that kind wandering through the pages, including Colorado photographer Anna Galbreaith, who is a source of curiosity and mystery to me (I would *love* to know more about her and her life). I do know she was a landscape photographer in Manitou, Colorado, during the mid-1880s and also ran a boarding house called the Ohio House. Since she signed her photographs "Mrs. Anna Galbreaith," I assume she was a widow... or possibly a divorcée? You can read more about Anna and see an example of her work here in a post I did yesterday to kick off this virtual tour. Other people of the day are mentioned in Mercury's Rise: William Palmer Jackson (founder of Colorado Springs and the Denver & Rio Grande) and Dr. William Bell (founder of Manitou Springs).

The real Robert Calder
But the real people I REALLY had fun with are folks I know in the present day world of 2011, who gave permission for me to use their names. In two cases, these folks "won" the honor of appearing in the story. Robert Calder (an artist who does wonderful watercolors that capture Leadville's past) had his name pulled out of a hat to appear as a character in the book. You can read a little about Bob and his work in this online article from Colorado Magazine. It seemed a natural fit to make Robert a plein-air artist, who is visiting Manitou with more than painting on his agenda. Sharon Crowson is a mystery reader and fan who has "been dying" (so to speak) to appear in a Silver Rush book. A bribe of chocolate did the trick, and she's there in the pages of Mercury's Rise, with a slightly different first name.

The real Dr. Prochazka
Dr. Aurelius Prochazka is a bona fide doctor... but not of medicine. You can get the gist of his claim to the Dr. title from this on his website: "Aure began his career at the California Institute of Technology  analyzing the aerodynamic stability of the F-117A Stealth Fighter and worked on computational fluid dynamics for his PhD thesis." Aure is a scientist, a musician, and an author in his own right. I've worked with Aure, and from those earliest days was just itching to steal his name (and some of his "renaissance man" personality) and plunk him down in 1880. He was a good sport about the whole thing when I asked (hopefully, he still is, now that the book is published!).

Finally, there are the Paces. While I was working with Aure, I also worked with Kirsten Pace and her husband Eric Cummings. I decided it would be fun to put Kirsten and her family (kids and all) in the story. She was fine with that, even after I gave her a much older, cantankerous husband (WHO IS NOT YOU, ERIC. Just want to make that clear. You appear at the end as a nice guy.) Kirsten just finished reading the book the other day and said she enjoyed it (well, she'd better say that! ;-) ) and then added it was odd to see her name crop up page after page after page... Just one of the hazards of being a key character in a novel!

There are shades of other "real people" in some of the continuing characters in my series. My protagonist, Inez Stannert is named after my grandmother. (You can read a bit about her and why she ended up my protagonist in another guest post here on Gayle Gresham's Colorado Reflections blog.) Doctor Cramer embodies elements of my own father, a kindly physician with a real knack for listening to his patients. Susan Carothers has a spirit much like a dear friend of mine from childhood, also named Susan, who like my fictional character forged a life to match her inner passions.

And then... there are those real people whom I shadow in darkness, twist their genders and their names, and gleefully make them murderers or victims and do horrible things to them (in fiction!) because at some point in my life they really ticked me off or hurt someone I loved. But I'm not going to say anything more about them. They will remain a mystery. ;-)
Leave a comment on this post to be eligible to win a Silver Rush mystery prize! To see the rest of my blog tour schedule, check out my News page.


Anonymous said...

I am so happy it is now available for us to get it and read it!
Wishing you many, many, many sales!

Jody said...

It's interesting to hear about how you used real people in your books.

Ann Parker said...

Hi Sue!
Yep, it should be out and about by now... copies were popping up, even before the release date. Thanks for your well wishes! :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hi Jody!
I had a lot of fun doing so... The density of "real people" in this book is particularly high. I probably won't do that again. But it was fun this time around! :-)

Malena said...

I think one of the best parts about writing is coming up with names for characters. I wish I could get a job just doing that. I know lots of people who find it difficult, but I just don't understand that.
If I knew someone named Dr. Aurelius Prochazka, I'd just have to use that name for a character.
Looking forward to meeting the characters you talk about in the new book.

Cyndy S said...

I enjoyed Silver, Iron, and Lead so much! I can't wait to get my copy of Mercury for a great read. See you next week, Ann!

Ann Parker said...

Hello Malena!
Character names tend to just "come to me" as well... soemtimes, though, I have to let go of a favorite if I have too many last names starting with "S" or "C" or some such.
Hope you enjoy MERCURY'S RISE!

Ann Parker said...

Thank you, Cyndy! See you soon as well!

Renaissance Women said...

You continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank You.

Ann Parker said...

Glad to be an inspiration... It's partially due to all the help you gave me, you know. :-)

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not too late to comment (I had no computer access on the first).

Since she signed herself "Mrs. Anna Galbreaith," (as opposed to, say, "Mrs. William Galbreaith") it would seem likely she was a widow. If the Wild West was anything like medieval Europe, she probably had more independence as a widow than she would have had as a wife. She definitely sounded like a very interesting person!


Eunice Boeve said...

Pretty neat how you wove real people into your story. I've used something about my grandkids in five stories now,three as very minor characters, one shared a b-day with the protagonist, one had a hotel named after her, but names are tricky for me. In my book Ride a Shadowed Trail, I had an old black cook named Belle and a 16-yr-old white girlnamed Lucy. They stayed flat as a sheet of cardboard and would do nothing. In desperation, I switched their names and they responded. Weird, huh?

Arletta Dawdy said...

Great comments. I especially like Eunie's. Aure's unusual name, for now and the period, is a standout. I've used family names here and there and it gave me a clearer sense of character...even when they went off on their own and developed differently than the "real" one.
Great blog, Ann, and a promising good read.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Sandra,
I agree... I'd guess she was a widow as well. If I were to go way out on a limb, I'd venture that perhaps she and her husband came to Colorado for health purposes and he died in Colorado (another TB victim, maybe?). This is total imagination and conjecture on my part... I'd sure love to know the real story. :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hi Eunice,
And I'll bet your grandkids cherish those books that include their names (or if they don't yet, they will! ;-) ).
I agree: Names can be tricky. I have more than half a dozen name books I can page through, and the old city directories from the time and places I write about. Sometimes I take a first name from one column and a last name from the other. But sometimes, as you say, tinkering is required to make those characters respond to their names. :-)

Ann Parker said...

Hi Arletta!
Nice to see you here! And thanks for your comments. Sounds like we've all "stolen names" at one time or another... :-)

Ann Parker said...

... Through the magic of the random name selector (i.e., my husband), the winner is:


Sandra, please contact me at annparker(at)annparker.net, so I can arrange to send you your Silver Rush mystery prize.

Thank you, everyone, for commenting and joining me on this virtual tour! :-)

Mystery Reader said...

Ann, I love this Inez series. So well written. And I'm impressed that you take the time to answer your commenters.

Ann Parker said...

Hello Ms. Mystery Reader!
Thank you so much for your kind words! And yep, I try to respond to everyone who takes the time to comment... Not that I'm always quick about it. :-}
Here's hoping you enjoy #4 in Inez's adventures!

Lori Orser said...

Hi Ann! (better late than never!) -- I'm using real people's names in the novel I'm (endlessly) revising now, but I'm mixing up first and last names, so that I won't think of any of them as the person I really met. My book is set on a reservation, and I felt the only way to stay true to that rez was to use actual names I'd encountered (and people too!). Only the protagonist, who comes from somewhere else, has an entirely made-up name! In the first draft of a new book, not yet completed, I've used some of the first names from my own family. I hope they won't mind -- I didn't ask! But none of them are evil. I want to use the name of a good friend in yet another novel, but he insists he must be an evil, conniving villain, and I want him to be more of a hero type (though not my protagonist, who is female, and again, loosely based on a real person, but this time with a different name!) And I've encountered Eunie's problem with character names, too. Sometimes they just walk in as I'm writing, or trying to sleep, and tell me what's wrong. I've even had four characters step up together to tell me that they did NOT belong in the book I was putting them in, and if I truly wanted to use them, it would have to be in a different story! (Does that mean I'm delusional, or, I hope, just creative?!)

Ann Parker said...

Hello Lori!
It's never too late to add a comment! :-)
Sounds like you have a fascinating book in the works... and yes, I've had characters tell me (emphatically) that this is "not their book." In fact, in LEADEN SKIES, my initial draft had my on-going character, photographer Susan Carothers in the beginning. But it was clear to me (and my critique group and my editor) that poor Susan was just being shoved from scene to scene with no purpose. So, I let Susan go home and rest (which she needed after her adventures in IRON TIES), and she was ready to return to action in the latest book, MERCURY'S RISE.
Good luck with your writing endeavors! And keep writing! :-)