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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Shopping for Your Character’s Homes




Pamela S. Meyers lives in the Chicago suburbs, an hour’s drive away from the Southeastern Wisconsin setting of most of her stories. With three books out now, when she isn’t busy marketing or writing her next novel, you can find her coordinating the ACFW Genesis Writing Contest for Unpublished writers. You can find more information on Pam at www.pamelasmeyers.com or on Facebook.

Shopping for your character’s homes can be almost as much fun as looking for your own home!

I’m very excited to guest post here at Novel Rocket because ever since I began writing fiction, I have wanted to write a story set in my beautiful hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. And this month my dream came true. Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (Summerside Press) has released!

The town of Lake Geneva is tucked into the southeast corner of Wisconsin next to beautiful Geneva Lake, a large spring-fed lake carved out by a glacier eons ago. First inhabited by American Indians, it didn’t take long for the 19th Century Chicago wealthy to discover the lake and its heavily wooded lakeshore was ripe for good hunting and fishing. After the Great Chicago Fire, many of these same men bought up property and built lakeshore mansions for their families to occupy while Chicago was rebuilt.



They came because of the fire and stayed because the nearby area it was a beautiful place to escape the city heat. Many of those mansions, like the one pictured here that was originally owned by the Swift Meats family, still remain. During the summer, excursion boats take folks around the 22 miles or so of shoreline to see these beauties.

When I first began plotting Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin (LFYLG), I knew I wanted my hero Jack Wallace to live on the lakeshore, but not necessarily in a grandiose mansion. I chose instead to place his family’s summer lake house in an enclave of small properties known as the Elgin club. Larger than many houses in the nearby towns, but far from mansion status, these summer homes still stand today, some handed down from generation to generation from the original family patriarch.

Lake Geneva is unique in that a public shore path that circles the entire lake ensures people access to all of the lakeshore and an up-close-and-personal view of the magnificent homes. The shore path through the Elgin Club property winds through tall trees that give the walkway welcome shade on hot summer days.



Last summer I walked the shore path until I came to the house I’d already chosen for Jack’s home and was elated to find that even up close it had the very details I’d imagined and had already written into the story. Certainly, a bit larger than my heroine Meg Alden’s home in town, but not mansion-status.

Later, when I found a picture of the same house taken around 1900, I was elated to see nothing on the outside had changed. I could describe the cupola and the stone porch and know that they looked the same in 1933 as it did over thirty years earlier, and remains the same today.

Although it is during the Great Depression, Meg’s father is an attorney and I wanted a house that was solid but not too ritzy. I settled on a two-story house one block north of the lake on one of Lake Geneva’s original streets. Later, I learned the house’s first occupant was James Simmons, one of Lake Geneva’s founding fathers and author of The Annuls of Lake Geneva, one of my primary resources I used while writing this story. 

I had been tempted to knock on the door and ask to see the inside, but refrained. Last year the house was on the market and the real estate company posted a virtual tour. It’s layout is totally different than the one I imagined in my head. I’m glad I didn’t try to see the inside. I like my floor plan much better!



I didn’t have to shop for a building to use for the weekly newspaper where Jack and Meg both work. One of my sources, a former editor of the paper, told me where it was located in the 30s.  The building’s storefront has long been reconfigured, but once I figured out the placement of the front door, I was good to go. 

An interesting piece of author trivia is that when I was a little girl, our family dentist was on the building’s second floor. The same floor the paper’s printing presses once churned out the weekly paper. Below is a picture of the building as it appears today, its second and third floors looking pretty much as they did back then.



The conflict begins when Jack arrives as the new reporter for the paper, the job Meg covets. They are at odds over that, but the one thing Jack and Meg hold in common is their love for Lake Geneva and the new recreational building going up at the lakeshore. The Riviera still stands today and is the centerpiece of the lakefront.



To learn more about Lake Geneva and what happens with Jack and Meg, you’ll just have to read the book!

Love Finds You in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Will she lose her heart to the man who stole her job?

A young woman wants to work in a man’s world. It’s 1933, the height of the Big-Band era, and beautiful Lake Geneva is already well established as a summertime playground for Chicago’s elite. Local girl Meg Alden works at the town newspaper, but she aspires to be a reporter—a job given only to men. When a position opens up, Meg spies an opportunity to break into the business. That is, until Jack Wallace, the son of a big-city newspaper magnate, is hired instead. Jack is drawn to Meg and suggests they combine forces to uncover a local scandal. But how will Meg be able to work with the man who stole her job…and makes her pulse race? 

2 comments:

Ane Mulligan said...

This was a fun post, Pam. I love those old homes!!

Joy said...

Great ideas, Pam - thank you! Think I'll take a walk around the town my new character lives in. :)