Who are you?
For those of you who are new to my blog, I write about the history and legends of Cape Cod. I’ve lived on Cape Cod with my family for 27 years.
|Author Barbara Eppich Struna and her husband Tim.|
In 1988 my husband and I moved in our forties from Ohio to the Cape with three teenagers. After our arrival to an 1880 house, we proceeded to renovate and rebuild the old beauty, establish my husband’s art career into the arts community, and bring two more children into the world…all within the first two years. As the three older teens slowly headed off to college, we searched for numerous free things to do and explored almost every inch of Cape Cod. The history of the Cape and its magical, pristine light kept my husband, as an artist, and myself, as a storyteller and lover of history, always looking and happily finding inspiration. I have written and published two historical fiction novels: The Old Cape House and The Old Cape Teapot. These novels are written using alternating chapters between centuries.
The Old Cape House was a recent recipient of the 2014 Royal Dragonfly Awards - First Place in Historical Fiction. It's a story about contemporary Nancy Caldwell who moves into an old Cape Cod house and in her backyard at the bottom of a root cellar finds evidence that links her land to 18th century Maria Hallett and the pirate Sam Bellamy.
What is your latest historical fiction piece?
In my second historical novel, The Old Cape Teapot, my contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, finds an old map of Cape Cod on the tropical island of Antigua. After returning home to the Cape and armed with clues from the map, she follows the trails of two pirate survivors from the 1717 wreck Whydah that sunk off the coast of Marconi Beach. Nancy knows from her previous adventure in The Old Cape House that in pirate culture...everything is equally shared and there must be more treasure.
Why did you choose to write it?
I wanted to develop my contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, into a series exploring history and present day. I also wanted to give my reader an awareness of their present day surroundings on the Cape and how it connects to local history.
|Evidence of wagon wheels and horses retrieving peat or salt hay on Nauset Beach at low tide.|
What about that era appeals to you?
Across Cape Cod, there are many locations that have remained untouched or have been thankfully kept historic over the centuries. I can walk down old fire roads and paths that date back to the 1700s. I find it fascinating that the land, known as Cape Cod, played such a significant role in the development of present day North America.
|On a path looking for the remains of Fresh Brook Village in Wellfleet.|
Are your characters real or fictional? If they’re real, how did you fictionalize them?
My contemporary character, Nancy Caldwell, will experience similar adventures and a few life events that I've gone through, that's the nature of writing novels. In fact, I think every writer sprinkles a little of themselves throughout their stories. Small occurrences that I encounter in everyday life will sometimes blossom and develop into full–blown story-lines of mystery and danger.
For example: I did find, under ten inches of dirt, a pattern of red bricks behind our barn. I did not find a complete root cellar like Nancy did in The Old Cape House.
I also found a blue–flowered pottery shard on the tidal flats and tried to locate its pattern in an old antique shop. Unlike Nancy in The Old Cape Teapot who found a shard, my search led me to a dead end, where as Nancy made a connection that placed her into a life–threatening situation.
|Blue–flowered shard found on Brewster flats.|
When crafting my stories, I use the documented and known facts of historical characters and then fictionalize, through research, what surrounded them based on my findings.
What kind of research is involved in writing your novel?
I research through libraries, old journals, oral histories, old newspapers, and of course the Internet. Sometimes I’ll search for hours to find information that will become only one sentence in the book.
How do you organize the fictional aspects of your writing vs. the historical facts?
I take tons of notes and organize them into historical fact categories, for example: travel, housing, clothing, food, events, names, and many more depending on what the story is about. The fictional aspects may be noted to the side of the category if I want to remember something important.
How does the historical timeline move your plot along or influence the actions of your characters?
It’s very important to me that I get my facts correct. My historical characters cannot stay at an inn, if there were no documented inns in an area. Nor could they travel quickly if on a long journey, estimating travel time is always difficult.
How do you feel about writers taking creative license with historical events? Or, does it bother you when facts are changed to fit the story in a movie or a book?
I’m a firm believer of keeping to the facts as much as possible. In my first novel, The Old Cape House, I knew that the story of the pirate, Sam Bellamy, and his ship, Whydah, was real. The remains of the wrecked ship were discovered in 1986 off the coast of Cape Cod. But where the story becomes muddy is the part about his lover, young Maria Hallett. I researched for several years trying to find evidence of her connection to Bellamy but found nothing. She seemed to exist only in people’s imaginations and on a few street signs, but that was all. So I took that uncertainty and ran with it, creating a whole new story for her and her lover Sam Bellamy using the known facts. In fact, I gave her a better ending.
|The bell of the pirate ship Whydah. Image courtesy of Historic Shipwrecks.|
What’s next for you after this present work?
Currently I’m researching another adventure for Nancy Caldwell. This time I alternate chapters between 1947 and present day in Hollywood and on Cape Cod to solve another mystery.
Next stop on the historical blog tour, for your enjoyment, I would like to introduce Eleanor Parker Sapia, a Puerto Rican-born novelist, who was raised in the US, Europe, and the colonial city of Ponce, Puerto Rico and where she got the idea for her debut novel, A Decent Woman. She has lived in France, Greece, Austria, Brussels, and Belgium, where she spent 13 years. Ellie has degrees from Marymount University in Virginia and Philippi Trust Counseling and Training Center, Blackpool, UK. She makes her home in West Virginia.