When I answer questions about my novels, someone in the audience invariably asks how I invent ideas for fictional story lines in my small town of Endurance. Here is a perfect example of a story idea that combines my past in a house I once occupied, two fictional stories of marriages a hundred years apart, and a blossoming romance between Jeff Maitlin and Grace Kimball. (Jeff and Grace were introduced in Three May Keep a Secret.)
This past week I joined an editor from my publishing company in a 270-page edit of my second Endurance mystery titled Marry in Haste. This book will come out in June, 2016, so you can see how far in advance the behind-the-scenes work is done. Not only did we collaborate in the first publisher’s edit, but I also sent in text for the cover, a summary for the publisher’s catalogue, and suggestions for the front cover of this second Endurance mystery.
Marry in Haste will pick up a few months after Three May Keep a Secret. The inspiration for this novel came from a huge Victorian home where I lived when I first moved to Monmouth. I’ve written more extensively about the history of this house in earlier blog posts if you are interested in more details.
Two photos of the house exist. This one is owned by a local man whose signature I collected on a legal release to let me use his picture. This photograph comes from a postcard of the home, circa 1895. Jeff Maitlin, my fictional newspaper editor, buys this house and plans to restore it to its original, late-1800’s splendor. Of course, by 2012, the house is in horrible disrepair, and Jeff has his work cut out for him. He’d like to turn it into a bed & breakfast for folks returning to town for Endurance College festivities. Meanwhile, he will live in one part of the multi-room home.
This second photo of the house is interesting because it includes an entrance on the west, or left side, of the house. By the time I lived there in 1968, this entrance no longer existed. Some time, possibly in the 1940’s, the house was divided into five apartments and this entrance may have been closed off then to provide the west wall of a bedroom on the first floor.
The original occupant, W.W. McCullough, owned a lumber yard in Monmouth, and I imagine his business provided the lumber for this house. McCullough also owned business interests in coal, farm implements, an interurban railway, and a pottery company. He lived in the huge Victorian with his family in 1896, but never actually held the mortgage. The McCulloughs didn’t live there for long before John C. Allen, another business man, bought the house. Allen moved to Monmouth from the western plains where he had been Nebraska’s Secretary of State. By 1905, he owned a huge dry goods store on the town square. He or his widow lived in the house until 1944.
Why all this interest in the McCullough house? Despite the discomforts of mice and other problems associated with big old houses, I often look back on this earlier time in my life and regret I didn’t really appreciate the story of this house when I was in my twenties and living in rooms which had seen so much history.
Unfortunately, the house was razed in 1990. So I thought it only fair to bring it back in my second novel so it will live a little longer, if only in my memory.
Today, the lot at 402 West Broadway belongs to the house to the west of the McCullough lot. The grass has filled in the area where the huge Victorian once stood in stately splendor, overlooking the public park across the street to the south.
If you look closely, you can see the sidewalk that went to the east side entrance of the house. The brick which surrounds the lot has a spot which is slightly lower because it contained a step up to the rest of the east sidewalk. Following the sidewalk, you climbed the stairs to the east door of the house which took you into the dining room of the downstairs.
The current driveway is where it has always been. I’d like to think a carriage house sat there originally, and, as time went by, it became a garage for an early 1900’s Ford.
On the south side of the lot today, someone has planted a lovely bush covered with pink flowers. I’d like to believe those flowers are a memorial or tribute to a fictional young girl who moved to Endurance from a farm four days south of the small town back in 1893. She married the judge who built the house in my second Endurance novel, and she discovered the truth in Ben Franklin’s adage, “Marry in haste, Repent at leisure.”