Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by Connie Knight.
My History Mystery by Connie Knight
When I wrote my first novel, I decided on mystery as my genre. I put a rough outline together, created a basic plot, came up with a setting and some characters. The Texas ranch land some miles from San Antonio appealed to me. My father’s family had settled there in 1825; we visited relatives often when I was a child; and I decided the country was an interesting place to write about.
But as I put my paragraphs on paper, I found that dips into the past were necessary to develop the contemporary story about the current murder. I had to develop motives for one character to dig up a patch of irises in an old graveyard, and a motive for someone to shoot him. A reason for Caroline and Janet to find Prof. Harrison’s body in their family cemetery, and a way for them to become amateur family detectives.
I thought about my characters, gave them names and sketched their personalities. Caroline had an interest in genealogy that brought her into research and turned up clues about the murder. She used census records, deeds, letters, oral history, trips to San Antonio to assess historic houses, talk to people, and attend a funeral. Some records or newspaper articles were on the computer; others she obtained from county courthouses and another genealogist.
The ancient documents that fell into Caroline’s hands reflected Texas history from the days that generated them. Long-ago deeds, a Bible listing the family tree, a rifle used in the Civil War, might have a tangle of effects now. I had to research life as it was in the 1800s to depict these things, and more, in my fictional story. Establishment of Texas colonies in 1825, the Civil War and its impact such as the terrible Sutton-Taylor Feud in DeWitt County, family secrets that would have disappeared if Caroline didn’t want to hear them—these are fictional but based on real items and events that my research revealed. Read the rest of this entry »