Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Remember When . . . It Was Modern (Almost)?

A week ago and a half ago, I typed the final words in The Lost Heiress. I still have some major edits to do, but the first draft is done. Again. ;-) Always a great feeling.

And this is the first time in a long...long...long time that I've finished a book that has some things that are decidedly modern. I got excited when, in Circle of Spies, I could include things like telegraphs and trains.
Poster for the Tube, 1905

In The Lost Heiress, advances have kept on hurdling their way into the world. In 1911, the wealthy had things like electric lights. Automobiles. Telephones.

Telephones!! LOL

This changes so, so much for a historical writer. One of the challenges has always been pacing myself to their rate of life, where it took days or weeks or sometimes months for communication to go from one person to another. Even with telegrams, you have to get to town and a telegraph office to send one. But suddenly I have characters who can call the police from their phone. Who can hop in the car to chase someone through the streets rather than saddling a horse. Who can steam their way across the Channel. Life is moving more swiftly again!

But there are checks, too. Things I have to remember as I'm indulging in this modern history. I have to remember that roads weren't yet made for cars. They were still mostly dirt, which means mud when it's rained. Which makes them impassable for automobiles--horses were still very much necessary much of the time.

I have to remember that though there were phones, there were also operators necessary for making the connections, who were rather notorious for listening in, as could anyone else on the same line--far from private!

I have to remember that though the wealthy had these advancements, the general public did not, not yet. Rural areas were largely still without electricity. Phones still hadn't reached the masses even into the 20s. Cars were far too expensive for anyone but the rich.

But then, I can mention a few other fun things, like the Tube in London. I had a character riding this underground train and was pretty excited to get to include it, especially since it was new to her and quite amazing.

And that, really, is where the real joy comes in. These advances were all new. They were exciting and uncertain and sometimes more than a bit dangerous. They were racing toward modernity at a pace that was often quite literally break-neck. They were discovering and failing and trying different approaches, by sea and land and even in the air.

Given that my characters are the type to embrace these new things and ride them rather recklessly into tomorrow (okay, one of my characters is...the other is a bit more cautious, LOL), it made for a fun story. =)


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