Mixing Fact With Fiction

Kathleen Y’Barbo
is the author of over 40 novels with more than 1 million copies in print in the
United States and abroad. A former literary publicist, she was recently
nominated for a Career Achievement Award by Romantic
Times
magazine. A tenth-generation Texan, Kathleen has four grown children, seven
bonus children, and her very own hero in combat boots. Find out more about
Kathleen at www.kathleenybarbo.com.
Looking for the Hidden and Finding the Obvious: Mixing Fact With
Fiction

Recently
my husband and I embarked on a research trip that would take us to the
locations of at least four different novels that were either under contract or
anticipated to be. Our travels took us to among other places, Memphis, New
Orleans, Mobile, and to–quite unexpectedly–West Point, Mississippi and
Waverly Plantation.
           
Waverly
was not on our list of potential sites to visit, nor was it even on our
radar–or rather GPS–as we circled through the South taking notes and
photographs. Yet when we stopped at a red light and saw a sign saying Waverly
Plantation, 10 miles, there was no question we had to go and see this place for
ourselves. In fact, I don’t even recall my husband asking. I think he just
smiled and turned right.
Ten miles
seemed like much more as the two-lane highway twisted through the Mississippi
backwoods. And then there was Waverly Plantation. An octagonal wedding cake of
a home with a cupola that looked as if it ought to include a Civil War era
gentleman with his spyglass pointed north watching for Yankees, the place was
quiet. Serene. Gently shabby. So of course we had to go in.
Our guide
tackled the stories of the home with enthusiasm, something that made up for the
surprising cost of entry. We later learned that while the plantation is on the
list of historic sites, it is privately owned and depends on entry fees for its
upkeep. The home is lovely, with that lived-in feeling that gives a visitor the
impression they’ve all just left and are expected back at any time. In fact,
I’ve read in subsequent research about the property that people have felt the
presence of ghosts. Of the feeling of being watched or the sound of a little
child calling for her mother. I can say I felt none of these things. Perhaps it
was because my writer’s mind was elsewhere.
Likely I
missed the ghosts–if they were that at all–because I was looking for the
hidden. Looking for the nuances that made a home of the time what it was.
Looking for the carved details on the staircase, the unique design of the New
Orleans-made beds with posts that telescoped up to hold mosquito netting, for
the unique device that the lady of the home used to call her maid to her
chamber. Those hidden things make a story, and that was my purpose for walking
the halls of Waverly that day.
However,
as I was looking for the hidden, I found the obvious. The people of the
nineteenth century, though not blessed (or burdened) with electronics and
modern devices, still managed to live a good life. A simpler life, yes, but a
good life all the same. They cultivated gardens, gathered for meals, and joined
in with their neighbors for the celebrations that marked their years.
One of the
celebrations held at Waverly back in the late 1860s gave rise to a legend that
I’ve borrowed from for my next historical novel, FLORA’S
WISH, book 1 of the Secret Lives of Will Tucker
series (Harvest House,
February 2013). I won’t give away the story, but I will say it involves a
candle, a lady’s hoop skirt, and a few dozen former Confederate soldiers who were
afraid the Yankees had returned.
Had we not taken that
turn down a two-lane Mississippi blacktop, we would never have found the hidden
Waverly, a home that obviously had much to offer for a writer. The lesson: when
looking for the hidden, be prepared to find the obvious. And always turn if you
see an interesting sign.

Flora’s Wish
The Secret Lives of Will Tucker, Book 1
An engaging, romantic story of how God can move a wide array
of circumstances to bring love, joy, and lasting fulfillment to the most hopeless
heart.
The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth
May 1887—Flora Brimm is determined the fifth time is the
charm. Back home in Natchez, Mississippi, she has a reputation as “Fatal
Flora,” a woman whose previous four fiancés met odd, untimely deaths before
they could get to the altar. Flora tries and tries again because she is
desperate to marry. Producing an heir is the only way she can keep Brimmfield,
her family’s estate, from going to her despised cousin Winthrop. She’s praying
a visit to an elite spa in Eureka Springs with her grandmother will help her
say “I do” at last.
Pinkerton agent Lucas McMinn is hot on the trail of Will
Tucker, a charming, cunning thief who broke his sister’s heart. When Lucas
arrives in Eureka Springs and discovers the slippery fellow apparently in
Flora’s good graces, he believes they are in on a devious plot together. Will
she be able to convince him of her innocence? Will he finally apprehend the
elusive Mr. Tucker?
And, more importantly, will Lucas survive if he pursues
Fatal Flora’s heart?