True-to-Life Details Woven into a Manuscript

The Beautiful Miss Chickadee Finch, from The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea, illustration copyright Sarah Jane Wright

I recently received a couple of questions about Olivia, a character in The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea, and the music that she sings. If you haven’t read the book yet (and you really should), this won’t give away too much. Maybe it will even entice you to read this book about two families (one human, one sock monkey) and the mysteries that surround them.

Here are six inspirations from my life that are woven into the book. Don’t hesitate to do this in your writing—details make books come to life.

  • During the 1930’s my parents, who lived in the Milwaukee area, often drove to Chicago on weekends to the dance at the Aragon Ballroom. It’s still open.
  • For years, I admired a peach satin dress in a dress box in our attic at home that my mom said she always wore to the Aragon. That dress found its way into the book.
Aragon Ballroom

Aragon Ballroom, circa 1935

Dick Jurgens Orchestra

Dick Jurgens and His Orchestra

  • The kind of music Annaliese’s mother Olivia sings in The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea is from the big band era: Wayne King, Dick Jurgens (listen to a video of his orchestra playing “Elmer’s Tune”), Tommy Dorsey, Freddy Martin, etc. These bandleaders and their Big Bands played at the Aragon, and my parents danced to them all.
  • The kind of Big Band singer I imagined Olivia to be is like one of the solo/lead singers featured in this blog.
  • I’ve always loved music, except during the five years my mother forced me to take piano lessons, something I was absolutely terrible at, having no natural talent whatsoever—except a strong sense of rhythm, which is why I’ve always loved to dance; all through high school and college and into my late 30’s/40’s when I (and later, my husband and I) took professional ballroom dancing lessons. I have always loved the Big Band sound, perhaps because our family watched The Lawrence Welk Show faithfully each week when I was growing up. His show was one of the most popular on TV from 1951 to 1982.

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