Writers create their own little worlds when they envision their stories. This is especially true for fantasies, fairy tales and those wonderful small town stories we have always loved.
My Civil War novel takes place in and around a real town. With serious liberties that would probably drive a Civil War historian insane. But I kept those Civil War buffs in mind as I created Maureen’s world. I wanted to be as true to the real Civil War landscape as I could.
I walked the Antietam battlefield. I visited the Pry House. I spent plenty of time wandering around Sharpsburg, driving the roads that lead to the Potomac River (and the South, during the War Between the States), and the roads that wind around the battlefield and lead to the two field hospitals that figure in my story. The hospital at the Pry House, a big old barn, still exists and that was easy to imagine. The other hospital is long gone. A collection of tents when Maria Hall was in charge, I had to imagine where that might have been.
Some things in the area haven’t changed since the war. Many of the roads remain. So do many houses and churches. The mountains still stand sentry on the horizon and the fields roll as they always have. Antietam Creek still burbles across the street from the cabin I imagined her sharing with Irish immigrant family.
All those things inspired each chapter of my novel.
And then, just as a way to double check my novel’s landscape, I bought a historic map from the park’s gift shop and marked it all up with the locations in my book.
At that moment, it became real to me. It became Maureen’s world.