In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Clues About an Intriguing Building, Montpelier, Vermont

Sometimes 90 percent of the historical research is done before I begin writing a book. At other times -- and this is one of them -- about 30 to 50 percent is done in advance, and the rest of it is a constant pressure of interest and investigation as the narrative of the story unfolds.

VPR news photo by Bob Kinzel
For the new book ALL THAT GLITTERS, featuring teen detective Lucky Franklin, I'm writing a chapter every three days on a public site, Wattpad (see yellow box in right-hand column of this blog page). There are two particular settings involved in the book, other than the modern hospital where Lucky's gunshot-wounded dad is recovering. I chose them for their intriguing past. One is the Vermont State House; the other is the Blanchard Block, which once included the town's Opera House. Now it's the home of the amazing shop Bear Pond Books, a real store whose owners are guests in the novel (smile).

Here's a bit about the structure, from the Central Vermont Walking Tour page:
2. Blanchard Block, 67-77 Main, 1833-4 and 1890
This impressive block still dominates this section of Montpelier. It was the first and tallest example in town of this type of commercial architecture which remains a major component of so many "downtowns" in America. The architect, George Guernsey, designed attractive storefronts, as well as a full-sized auditorium, known as the Blanchard Opera House. Unusually fine musical entertainment graced the stage largely because it was located between Boston and Montreal and seated 800 people. The building was extended on the right to provide a larger stage and space for the Brooks Post G.A.R., but by 1910 the hall closed permanently, heralding the coming of the moving pictures. The upper floors are now all used for offices and apartments; little evidence remains of the stage and galleries.
I have confirmation from two different sources that the Opera House used to host the visiting circuses. Now, picture this lovely performance venue on the SECOND FLOOR of the structure -- and add to your mind's-eye image the fact (confirmed!) that the elephants, as well as other performing animals, used to wall UP THE STAIRS to meet their audience!

Well, how could I resist?

Megan Morse at architect George Guernsey's house. Photo by Jay Ericson.
But tracking down information goes one step at a time, and that's not quite enough for the level of detail I need for this story. So the next step, for me, is to track the architect mentioned, George Guernsey. Happily, I've found that a Norwich University student, Megan Morse, began a survey of Guernsey's work in 2009. In fact, here's a photo of Ms. Morse at Guernsey's Montpelier home.


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