One of the sad truths about being an author is that our job is to make life more difficult—not easier—for our characters. And I suspect said characters don’t always appreciate our diligent efforts to complicate their lives.
I’m sure Ellie, the heroine of Love in Disguise, would have liked a little advance notice on what to expect before she arrived in Pickford, Arizona, to begin her work as an undercover Pinkerton operative. After spending her life involved in Chicago’s theater circles, imagine the poor girl’s reaction to seeing a street scene like this when she stepped off the stage . . . minus the tourist in shorts, of course.
But I wasn’t totally bent on making Ellie’s life miserable. The moment I spotted this building—which houses Tombstone’s Visitor Center—I knew it was the ideal inspiration for the Grand Hotel. See the way it sits on an intersection with windows facing out on both streets? What a perfect place for Ellie to sit in the lobby and do a bit of spying while she’s trying to spot the silver thieves!
Discovering the “Grand Hotel” was a lovely bit of serendipity. Sometimes a setting will line up so perfectly with what’s needed in a story that I just have to catch my breath and say, “Thank You, Lord!”
Another fun moment occurred when I was scouting around—with the help of my family—for the perfect location for my fictional town. During one of our forays, we discovered Fairbank, an old ghost town near the San Pedro River.
The location was promising, but the problem remained of what to call it. For one thing, I’d planned to use a fictitious town in my book. For another, Fairbank didn’t have quite the sound I was looking for.
My son, who is also a classic movie buff, came up with a suggestion: “Why don’t you call it Pickford?” It took a moment to realize he was making a playful reference to the romance and subsequent marriage of early 20th-century film stars Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford.
Well, why not? Pickford had a nice ring to it, and the “pick” part of the name tied in with the mining theme of the book.
And now you know “the rest of the story” about how Pickford got its name. Maybe I should have written my son in as the mayor.
Speaking of film stars, I asked a question while chatting online with a group of readers last week, and I’d love to know your thoughts on this—
Ellie, the heroine of Love in Disguise, had three very different “looks”—her own appearance (which she considers plain and uninteresting), middle-aged Lavinia, and Lavinia’s dazzling niece, Jessie (pictured on the cover of the book.) It would take a talented actress to carry that off! If you were casting the movie version of Love in Disguise, who would you pick to play such a challenging role?
What do you think? Please chime in and let me know. Hollywood hasn’t come knocking on my door yet, but it’s always fun to dream. : )
Many thanks to Tammy for letting me fill in for her this week! I love my visits to Writes of Passage!