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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Travel for Research - Joyce Faulkner

The image of McConnell's Mill that has inspired a new story

Sure, I love to travel just for travel's sake. I've tasted the morning breeze as we rose above the Serengeti in a hot air balloon -- just for adventure. (http://www.balloonsafaris.com/ ) I've cruised the inside passage of Alaska and toured the glaciers in a helicopter simply because the mood hit me. I've been to Japan and Korea and Mexico -- all for the fun of traveling. However, as an author, I often travel for research. And believe me, tracking down a story can be one of the more exciting reasons for leaving home.

As a writer, I choose my destinations based on a variety of needs. Sometimes, I'm looking for an interesting location for a novel or short story. For example, I once measured the corner of Baltimore and Steinwehr in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to see if a bus loaded with explosives could make that sharp of a turn. And I took pictures of Fort Jefferson, the most remote American National Park, (https://www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm), so I would remember how it looked when I described it in one of my books. Sometimes, just driving by an old farmhouse can stimulate my thinking and I will carry the image with me for years before it comes out as a full blown story. I am pondering such a tale set at McConnell's Mill not too far from my apartment -- from a picture I took on a lovely spring day.


Sometimes, I find stories in my travels. The first chapter of my novel, In the Shadow of Suribachi, began in the Key West, Florida, library where I thumbed through old books filled with newspapers with articles about the keys in the 1930s. And sometimes, I travel because I already have a story in mind, and I want to know more about it.

A couple of years ago, I was working on my family tree and discovered that my grandfather's grandfather -- Allen Brown -- had been murdered in the Pope County Militia War during Reconstruction in Arkansas. Well, I had no idea I had a great great named Allen Brown who had lived in Dover, Arkansas. All I had of him was a picture of his grave and some bits and pieces about the Pope Country Militia War on the Internet.

Grave of ancestor that gave rise to the search for his story.
It sounded like a heck of a story, so on our next visit to Arkansas, I made a point of visiting Russellville and Dover. We took pictures of Dover which had been the county seat during Reconstruction, but there wasn't much there to see any more -- nothing that gave any hints about the conflict that had gone on for years. However, we hit the jackpot at the Russellville Library where we found helpful folks well-versed in Arkansas history who had dedicated a great deal of time indexing the very information I wanted. I left with my phone filled with images of of old documents and compiled books that told the ugly tale of neighbor against neighbor. As a result of my trip, I've decided to write a trilogy of books with the Pope County Militia War being the first.

One of the old newspaper articles we found at the Russellville, AR library

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