Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You can't wear a bowler hat in 1861, just in case you were wondering

I write time travel novels, and one of the features that stands out when a character travels in time is fitting in with the culture.  That includes clothing, behavior, hair styles, social interaction and such.  Since my characters move about in time, I have had to research to make sure that Mick is wearing the right kind of hat (top hat, not bowler, by the way) when he takes a stroll in Boston 1861 or Emily's hairdo is appropriate for 1634 in Stepney, England.

That is part of taking on a time travel novel; it is just the nature of the beast.  But I love history, so any reason is a good excuse to immerse myself in the past.  It is time consuming and it is inspiring.  The simple endeavor of describing the sound of horses pulling a carriage down the street led me to learn what kind of paving stone was used on early Boston roads.

I wanted to know if Boston had dirt or cobble roads in 1861.  It is a simple question, but the answer carries a significant difference.  The thud of hoof on dirt is quite different from the sharp plod of a shod step on stone.  But I learned even the diction mattered.   There is a big difference between a sett and a cob, and which was used on the street effected horses and carriage wheels, too.  A sett is a flat granite stone laid in rows which were kinder to horses and did not wear out carriage wheels too quickly, while cobs, round stones that were not just awkward to walk on but dangerous due to their slipperiness, produced an annoying rocking motion.  And that effort to be accurate is meant to add authenticity to my novels.

Though my books are part of a series, they are not focused on one character but on a family of characters who are close in friendship or in family connections.  Brent Garrett is the main character in the first book (In Times Passed).  His daughter Misty picks up the time traveling bug in the second book (No-Time like the Present), and Mick and Emily, Brent's brother- and sister-in-law and Misty's foster parents, take up the baton in the third book.

The third book is where I had the most fun working with "costuming" because Mick and Emily are searching for Renwick, who has gone missing during a jump, and they are following clues as Misty finds them and forwards them on.   Since it's a bit of a mystery where he could have landed, and they have all of time to search, there are bound to be coincidental matches as well as reliable clues, but they are tough to tell apart.

So this detecting, time travel couple find themselves going to places unfamiliar.  Now I can't do research on times that have not come yet, but I can create such a place and time.  Still it must be unique and grow logically from what human beings do with fashion and interaction.  This excerpt is from the costuming room that Mick and Emily use to prep for their jumps.  In this excerpt, they are getting ready to go to Poukeepsie, New York, in 2082.

     "It's probably best we get dressed, Mick.  I think these outfits are designed to go together.  What do you think?" 

     Mick pulled his gaze from the empty doorway and looked at the clothes hanging on the closet extension.  He raised an eyebrow.  "I was hoping that one was yours, but I see now it must be mine."

     "They're not bad, Mick."  The two stood examining the outfits. 

     "I've never worn orange before," Mick said.  "Always thought it was illegal for a redhead to wear orange."

     "The brown coat and the tan pants probably keep it from overpowering the look."  Emily stood before the set provided for her.  On the shoe carousel, she saw a pair of tall black boots her size beside a set of brown ankle high stouts she knew were for Mick.  He stood to her right staring at the lower portion of the pants he would be donning.  "We'll figure those out when we get to them, Mick.  Start high and work down.  Ready?"  She started by taking off jewelry and emptying her pockets onto a tray.

     Mick nodded and removed his suit jacket, tossing it to the closet for return to the proper slot.  He continued to remove clothes until he could put on the first layer hanging before him.  It was a bright orange tunic with a V-neck collar over an under sheath of butter white.  The tunic tapered in, starting at the chest without being snug and stopped at the hip.  The long sleeves had butter white frills at the wrist.  Mick looked to Emily for comment, but she was busy pulling her pink tunic on sans trim and deep V-neck.  Another difference was that it stopped at just below her waist.  The material, a soft suede, was the same though.

     "If I put the coat on next, I'll feel like a flasher in a park," said Mick.  "I am going for the pants, but I am going to ignore those orange attachments at the ankle for now."

Emily nodded reaching for the knickers before her.

     After pulling the deep-waisted pants on, Mick shrugged into the calf-length overcoat in heavy brown suede.  "Must be going to Poughkeepsie in the early spring or late fall.  This is a warm outfit."

     "I think so, too.  These pants look like they stole the pattern from Louie the fourteenth."

     "Is that better or worse than genie windpants?" grumbled Mick.  Emily turned to look and laughed out loud.

     "I'm going to be armed and dangerous, little lady, so can the laughter."  Then Mick looked at her and choked and snorted.  "I feel much better now.  No one is going to shoot at us. You can't kill a man with a grin spread across your face.  What's that little black thing?"

     "It's a skull cap, and stop laughing at me."

     "I don't have one.  I don't have a hat at all."

     "Are you complaining?"

     "Don't get me started, woman.   I can complain about a lot more than not having a skull cap."

I love those two characters.

Book 3 publishes in July 2014

These two links provide access to the first two Students of Jump novels, my anthology of short stories and my non-fiction narrative frameworks text.  And I am off to research some more.

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