Historical Fiction

Historical Fiction
Natalie Bright
Historical details haunt me. Am I getting this right? Accuracy in the stories I’m writing cause me much concern and angst; I never feel I’ve done enough homework or that I have a full grasp of the time period. Take for example a letter to the editor of the Western Writers of America’s magazine. He wrote to complain about the use of the word “sheriff” in western novels. City councils hired a “marshall”, not a sheriff. For my middle-grade series set in the Wild West, I did research Marshall, who was appointed by the U.S. President at the time. I got that right. The thought to question and research the term ‘Sheriff’ never once crossed my mind. Will the incorrect information aggravate some readers, and since it’s a children’s book, should writers have an even bigger obligation to make certain the historical information is accurate?
I’m experiencing the same doubts when working on the WordsmithSix’s Route 66 anthology. The history is fascinating, and it’s difficult to stop the research and just write. My story is set in the 1930s, and when I read first-hand accounts of the time period, I want to include all of the details that I find enthralling, but the readers may find cumbersome. I guess the best thing to do, is just let the characters decide.

Here’s the blurb for our upcoming anthology, which will be a collection of stories from different time periods but with one common Route 66 location. I think readers will love this collection of stories, and the research has been fun. My story is actually based on the true circumstances of my husband’s great-grandmother and is set in 1930’s Texas.

It started as a dirt path connecting neighbors, communities, states and finally a nation. Route 66 was an overland route traveled by pioneers, migrant farmers, and anyone going west looking for the American dream. From wagon ruts to an asphalt highway, it has connected generations of people.

Join us as we travel through time from the early days and well into the future on the Mother Road.

OUR TIME ON ROUTE 66 is a collection of stories that tell of good times and bad, love and heartache, from the past to beyond tomorrow, and all of them are connected by one stop, the Tower Station, and U-Drop Inn. 


Promote You: Hit the Road, Find Inspiration, & Post a Picture

Promote You: Hit the Road, Find Inspiration, & Post a Picture

By Natalie Bright

Spent a Saturday morning with my Thursday night critique group researching historic Route 66, which runs through our area of the Texas Panhandle. We are working on an anthology of stories set on this iconic road.

I’ve been involved in this discussion before with a previous group of writers, and even have a 25,000 word story that never materialized into anything tangible. Sometimes you have to give a story everything you have, and then know when to move on. Maybe I can revive that someday, but in the meantime the topic of doing a group project came up again. We’ve talke about this before, and finally, we are actually to the DOING because Mr. Keel hit on a common theme that inspired us all:

Old Route 66

To set fire to our inspiration and story sparks, we planned a field trip to visit one of the most well known landmarks on Old Route 66 in our area. The U-Drop Inn is located just up the road in Shamrock. It was a great day and very inspiring. My character and her journey is definitely more clearer in my head. At some point in the story, she will make her way along Old Route 66 and stop at the U-Drop Inn diner.

Here’s the cool part; the spark from the my story came from my husband’s great-grandmother who was given to a man 31 years older then her when she was 21. Some of the family believe it was to pay off her own father’s gambling debt, others can’t say for certain. I’ve thought alot about this lady and how she must have felt. She was an interesting lady. She acquired a divorce in Washington D.C. and married a young man her own age, my husband’s great-grandfather. I have no idea if she ever traveled on Route 66 during her lifetime, but that’s where the character becomes fictional. Don’t dismiss those wonderful family stories as sparks.

Our characters  and their adventures are beginning to take shape. I am so excited about this anthology. The six stories in our new book will be in various genres and time periods, but they will all have at least one scene at the U Drop Inn. I’ll also be offering my novella as a stand alone title.

Promote You

Have you been on a research trip? Post pictures on your social media and create a little buzz about your upcoming story.

Are you looking for inspiration? Nothing like a road trip. Clear your head and just look, listen, smell, and touch. Don’t forget your pen and notebook.

More about Old Route 66

Built in 1936 at a cost of $23,000, the Tower Conoco and U-Drop Inn were featured in the 2006 Disney Pixar movie CARS.

Although the cafe does not serve food today, it is immaculately preserved. At the grand opening in April, 1936, it was considered “the swankiest of the swank eating places.” When Route 66 came through Shamrock in 1937, it was the only eating place for a hundred miles along the new roadway. Elvis ate in one of the corner booths. As an excellent example of Art Deco, the building features two flared towers with green glazed ceramic tile walls and neon light accents.

Route 66 was decommissioned in 1984 and Shamrock became one of the many towns bypassed by highway Interstate-40. Through several owners, name changes, and layers of paint, a son of one of the original owners purchased the dilapidated building in the 1980s and restored it back to the original colors and name.

Today, the U Drop Inn is owned by the city of Shamrock and houses the local tourist information center.

Ye Old Antique Shoppe

Outtakes #30

Ye Old Antique Shoppe

Researching can be really tedious. Locating and reading old documents may require cotton gloves, a note pad and pencil, and a box of allergy medication. Many old documents cannot be photocopied, so hours of note taking are part of the bargain. But when you find that first clue that leads to a more detailed item that takes you to the mother lode, you have that eureka moment. The ultimate results are worth the effort. Then again, research can be loads of fun.

HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, my current work in progress, is set in a small Texas town. The town is fictional, but I fashioned Lucille Walker’s house after my grandmother’s home. I had no trouble duplicating the layout and some of the furniture, but the kitchenware, vintage jewelry, and some of the clothing required a bit of legwork. Fortunately, Amarillo is blessed with a number of good antique and consignment shops.

Route 66 runs through Amarillo’s 6th Street. This district is full of old buildings converted into antique shops. I’ve learned which ones are best for locating various items. For vintage jewelry, Depression Glass, and glass kitchenware, I like 6th Street Antique Mall. The shop has cases of costume jewelry and good quality semi-precious pieces. I found beautiful foil-back rhinestone broaches and matching earrings that reminded me of my grandmother’s jewelry. Grandma Fouts wore hats and used hat pins. While this shop does not carry much clothing, I did find a couple of nice hat pins. I purchased a string of matched jade beads for my own jewelry collection.

I was pleased to find original Fiestaware in one of the back rooms. The original Fiestaware may not be safe for serving food as some of the colors contained lead. The colors are more muted than the reproduction line. Still, the early pottery looks beautiful when displayed in glass-front cabinets. I also found Jadeite mugs, green Sandwich Glass bowls, saucers, juice glasses, and milk glasses, ruby glass vases, and 1950-1960 aluminum tumblers.

Red Door Antiques and The Village Antique Mall are south of Interstate 40 off Georgia Street.  Red Door Antiques not only carries Depression Glass, they also carried a line of older Disney collectables. These served as the inspiration for some of the collectables in Kate’s room at the Homestead. I found the Jadeite mother lode at the Village Antique Mall. They had the mugs plus the cake plates, cookie jars, bowls, salt and pepper shakers, and canisters. The original Fire King Jadeite is expensive, so I examined the items instead of buying. While I love the line, I cannot justify purchasing antiques I will not use. My best find at The Village Antique Mall was a Pyrex Dripolator. I had found pictures of the old coffee pot, but actually seeing the forerunner of Mr. Coffee was truly amazing.

Armed with my antique shop finds, I was able to furnish Miss Lucille’s kitchen, jewelry box, William Walker’s accessory case, and add accents to the house. Not only, did I enjoy my research, I was able to add to my personal collections. Antique stores, vintage book shops, consignment stores and antique shows can be valuable resources for the writer. Strolling through these shops provide inspiration for various period settings. Take a day, and visit your local shops. You might find your grade school lunch box or favorite toy on a shelf.  I did, and it brought back wonderful memories.

Cait Collins