Writing historical fiction is tricky. Most authors do a significant amount of research before putting pen to paper. Then we determine what pieces of history are worthy of telling in an interesting way to our audiences. When I’d finished Yours in a Hurry, I was faced with how to let my readers know what was historical and what was fiction. I also needed to credit authors whose nonfiction or historical fiction works contributed to my novel.
I went to one of my favorite historical novel authors, Mary Doria Russell, for help. She directed me to her interesting Dreamers of the Day, for an example of how I could accommodate my readers and contributors. To help other authors, the Sources chapter used at the end of my novel is repeated below to illustrate.
Yours in a Hurry: A Novel
Many Yours in a Hurry characters are real. However, like the stories around actual historical events in the novel, many of their stories are fictionalized. For instance, there’s no proof that aviators Harriet, Matilde, and Blanche were close friends, but they did interact in their work. The benefit of writing historical fiction is the pleasure in imagining a different world—what might or could have been—and to introduce readers to certain times, places, and characters they may not have known otherwise. The following sources were most helpful.
According to the May 18, 1911 Los Angeles Examiner, Anna moved to California and worked in real estate. That’s all I know until she eventually moved to San Antonio. There was a family code of silence around her life. The 1910 Census provided information on those who lived in Anna’s Los Angeles neighborhood. Names of the neighborhood characters have been changed as the stories around them are fictionalized, but not their occupations. I doubt that Anna and her actual second cousin Daeida “Ida” Wilcox Beveridge ever met, but Joseph was a good connection given Ida’s successful real estate career. The women resembled each other, and I owe much to a guide at the Hollywood Heritage Museum’s old Hollywood tour for insights into Ida’s personality.
The best sources on Ida and early Hollywood are Gregory Paul Williams’s The History of Hollywood: An Illustrated History (Los Angeles, CA: BL Press, 2011) and Bruce T. Torrence’s Hollywood: The First Hundred Years (New York: New York Zoetrope, 1982). For early California culture, read Inventing the Dream: California through the Progressive Era (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, USA, 1986) by Kevin Starr.
Two novels popular during the period are mentioned in several sources: Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona (Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company, 1884) and Howard Bell Wright’s The Winning of Barbara Worth (New York: A. L. Burt Publishing Company, 1911). Reading these works and watching the 1920’s film versions provided insight into early California. The song, ‘Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland,’ by Leo Friedman with Beth Slater Whitson, is listed on the Public Domain Information Project list, and the original Henry Burr rendition is available on YouTube.
Anna actually married the Martin character. Their child, Milo, disappeared after birth. As no death certificate exits, I assumed the alternative. We know Anna and Martin divorced before May 1911. Their story is fictionalized, but he did end up in prison several years later. The comments Joseph relates from pardon letters after Martin’s capture are based on the actual file at the California State Archives at San Quentin.
Addison left Marseilles, Ohio and was in St. Louis in 1910. What we know of his move and activities in Los Angeles, including his relationship with Harry Dosh, are taken from two newspaper articles, the first, mentioned above in the Los Angeles Examiner, and also the May 13, 1911 Los Angeles Express. Did he attend all of the air exhibitions described in the story? Without formal education in aviation and given that he was in some cities near the time of the events, it’s plausible. His death and George Kelly’s are reported in the June 1911 Aeronautics. The original letter to Mr. Davis was printed in Upper Sandusky, Ohio’s The Daily Chief on May 27, 1911.
The aviators described at the air shows are real, but Ernie Spoon is a fictional character. The early aviation story line was developed from many sources. Three I returned to often are Tom D. Crouch’s Wings: A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003); Terry Gwynn-Jones’s The Air Racers: Aviation’s Golden Era 1909-1936 (London: Pelham Books, 1984); and Contact!: The Story of the Early Birds by Henry Serrano Villard (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1968). The main source for Glenn Curtiss is C. R. Roseberry’s Glenn Curtiss: Pioneer of Flight (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1972).
The Wright Brothers’ story is told in both Fred Howard’s Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers (New York: Ballantine Books, 1987) and Orville’s Aviators: Outstanding Alumni of the Wright Flying School (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2009) by John Edwards. Historical novel fans will appreciate Walter Boyne’s Dawn Over Kitty Hawk: The Novel of the Wright Brothers (New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, 2003). Another Ohio boy’s story that captured hearts at the time is told in Martin Kidston’s Cromwell Dixon: A Boy and His Plane (Helena Montana: Farcountry Press, 2007).
Accounts on major air shows reflect numerous sources, including those aviation sources mentioned earlier and the following: Peter Demetz’s The Air Show at Brescia, 1909 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002); Kenneth E. Pauley and the Dominguez Rancho Adobe Museum’s The 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet (Charleston, SC: Acadia Publishing 2009); and the Century of Flight website, www.century-of-flight.net/index.htm. As for the women aviators, Harriet Quimby’s story comes from Giacinta Bradley Koontz’s The Harriet Quimby Scrapbook: The Life of America’s First Birdwoman (1875-1912) (Bend, Oregon: Maverick Publications, 2003) and Ed Y. Hall’s Harriet Quimby: America’s First Lady of the Air (Spartanburg, South Carolina: Honoribus Press, 1990). Much detail of Harriet’s flights and experiences are taken from her articles, which appeared in Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly between the years of 1909 and 1912, all of which are chronicled in Hall’s book. Copies of some articles appear in both his and Koontz’s works. Journalist Gertrude Stevenson’s story is provided by Koontz and is taken from Stevenson’s article in the Boston Herald at the time.
Matilde Moisant and her brothers John and Alfred are followed in Doris Rich’s The Magnificent Moisants (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998). For Blanche, I relied on Julie Cummins’s Tomboy of the Air (New York: Harper Collins, 2001) and websites, especially Early Aviators at www.earlyaviators.com. The Dorothy Gibson Titanic story comes from the Story of the Titanic as Told by its Survivors, edited by Jack Winocour (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1960), which contains several earlier publications that provide first-hand accounts of the disaster.
Purl did leave Ohio for the service after losing his inheritance. Except for discharges, records of this period were lost by the government. I was fortunate to find a firsthand account of his unit, Exploits and Adventures of a Soldier Ashore and Afloat  (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1911) by William Llewellyn Adams. Additional information about the military at that time can be found in Lisle A. Rose’s Power at Sea: The Age of Navalism, 1890-1918 (Columbia, Missouri: The University of Missouri Press, 2007) and The Regulars: The American Army 1898-1941 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004) by Edward M. Coffman. Will and Robbie are fictional characters.
Jack London stories as edited by Steven Kasdin in The Collected Jack London (New York: Marboro Books, 1991) helped describe the Pacific settings. Joan London’s Jack London and His Times (New York: Doubleday, Doran and Co., 1939) provided insight to the period. Purl’s life-long dedication to Roosevelt led me to read more about his influence on the nation before, while, and after he was in office, especially the more recent sources such as Doris Kearns Goodwin’s The Bully Pulpit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2013) and PhilipMcFarland’s Mark Twain and the Colonel (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012).
If reading Yours in a Hurry left you wanting to read more, here are additional recommendations from the extensive list I used over the past several years.
California and Hollywood
Sam Hall Kaplin, LA Lost and Found: An Architectural History of Los Angeles (Crown Trade Paperbacks: New York, 1987)
Kevin Starr, Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920’s (Oxford University Press: New York, 1991)
Aviation History Online Museum, www.aviation-history.com
Charles DeForest Chandler and Frank P. Lahm, How our Army Grew Wings: Airmen and Aircraft Before 1914 (The Ronald Press, New York, 1943)
Tom Crouch and Peter L. Jakab, The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age (The National Geographic Society: Washington D.C., 2003)
Paul Glenshaw, “Or Die Trying” (Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Magazine, February/March 2012, pp. 64-68)
Lawrence Goldstone, Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies (Ballantine Books: New York, 2014)
Next time: A Novel Idea
Ann Otto writes fiction based on factual as well as oral history. Her debut novel, Yours in a Hurry, about Ohioans relocating to California in the 1910’s, is available on-line at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and at locations listed on her website at www.ann-otto.com. Ann’s academic background is in history, English, and behavioral science, and she has published in academic and professional journals. She enjoys speaking with groups about all things history, writing, and the events, locations, and characters from Yours in a Hurry. She is currently working on her next novel about Ohio’s Appalachia in the 1920’s and prepared for future works by blogging about a recent World War 2 European tour. She can be reached through the website, or on Facebook @Annottoauthor or www.Goodreads.com.