Since autumn, I have had the research assistance of Dylan, a delightful high school senior doing his co-op placement with me. It was my intent that, in the process of unearthing data, the young man would acquire basic research skills, learn what being an author is all about, and expand his own dreams for the future. To keep things on track, I drew up a Research Project Timeline for him and created Project, Buildings and People charts. Privately I hoped that I would be able to keep him meaningfully occupied for four-and-a-half months. I need not have feared.
In the beginning, I thought I had a pretty clear concept of where this story was going, an urban fantasy set in the Victorian past. I explained to Dylan that, even in fiction, noteworthy characters require realistic settings. Nonetheless, I expected that this would be comparatively light research. After all, how much reality could an urban fantasy take?
Dylan and I had a wonderful time photographing everything possible, wandering through buildings and properties, and interviewing local historians. We spent countless hours in the county archives of an adjacent town as well as at the local library, aka the fictitious Prosper Station.
As the weeks passed, I became increasingly passionate about the history of the picturesque little town in which I’ve lived for twenty-some years. I discovered its truly amazing past and was awed by the courageous, fascinating souls who trod upon those early streets. My focus changed from urban fantasy to historical fantasy.
I found myself wanting more and more information. Dylan took additional pictures. We began compiling census information from 1891 and 1903 and I fussed over blank places on the various charts.
But there comes a time when every research phase has to end. Dylan’s co-op term is winding down, and in a few days I will be leaving for Alabama with my family. Write on!