The one question my readers ask most often is, “Where did you get the idea for your plot?” For me, it started with a germ of an idea. A few years ago, I read on the web that during the 1920s, Akron had the biggest chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. I was immediately intrigued, and starting looking into it further.
I learned that in the decade from 1910 to 1920, Akron was the fasting growing city in the country, and the population exploded by over 60 percent. Immigrants and Appalachians were flowing into the city to work in the rubber factories and make tires, which created a culture of resentment and bigotry against those who weren’t “true Americans.” Appalachians were dubbed “hillbillies” or “snakes.” Many called Akron “the capital of West Virginia.”
Originally I thought the KKK would be a pivotal part of the book, but it turns out I only make mention of it once in an historical overview of the 1920s. The more I read about Akron, the rubber factories, and the decadent culture during Prohibtion, the more I began to imagine my eventual story.
My parents grew up in Akron and went to the university there. My mother was able to put a lot of things in context. Several reviewers have mentioned that this is my family’s story, but it definitely is not. My mother provided information about working in the factory, joining a sorority, and other events and impressions about Akron. In no way is this story about my family. My father plays a role in a very indirect way. Parts of his personality show up in the character Albo, but other than that, he was nothing like Albo. But isn’t that what writers do? Create characters based on people they know in some way? Although I must note, Cantrell and Voigt came directly from my imagination.
I knew from the very beginning how the book began and what the ending had to be. About one-quarter of the way through my first draft, I stopped to work out the exact details of the ending. I knew if I didn’t get that right, there would be no book.
Creating a story and the plot wasn’t immediate—it evolved over time. I had to make sure everything was logical. I did meticulous research into the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s. I wanted to be sure the events were correct.
By July 2011, I had a rough outline of the plot and began writing full time. I knew I wanted a boardinghouse in the story—my great grandmother and grandmother ran one together in Akron from around 1915 into the 1920s. Although Marta is loosely based on my grandmother, Erna is an amalgam of many people.
I had no trouble creating the characters and had a lot of fun “naming” them. I even researched first and last names for the different ethnic groups.
I also had to be sure any slang I wrote was in use at the time. I had several readers tell me people never would have said the word “friggin’” in the 1920s. Believe it or not, the word originated in the 1590s. You can see the reference here: http://bit.ly/NKWzFH.
I am in the midst of starting my next novel. It takes place in Chautauqua Institution in the late 1930s. I already have most of the plot worked out.ideas, indie author, plot, writing