Researching Boxes for Beds

by Maryann Miller

Boxes_Kindle_final_smallerFirst I want to thank Heidi for inviting me to be her guest today. I am so pleased that we have become cyber-friends, and I was honored when she asked me to share something on her blog about my book, Boxes For Beds.

The story idea came to me when I read a small newspaper item a number of years ago about a mystery in Arkansas. It seems that when a woman died and authorities went into her home, they found skeletons of babies in boxes in her attic. Apparently the woman had never married and lived alone in an old farmhouse on the outskirts of a small town. The people who knew her thought she was a sweet old lady, and all were shocked when the grisly discovery was made. Nobody knew where the babies had come from, or how the skeletons ended up in the attic.

Wow, what fertile ground for a writer’s imagination.

I immediately started filling in some of the blanks and characters began to take shape, as well as motivations. There had to be a plausible reason for someone to have dead babies in their attic.

I don’t want to say much more about that, as I don’t want to give away the important elements of the story and spoil it for potential readers, but nothing is spoiled if I explain why the story is set in 1961. I wanted to have the county sheriff be corrupt, and while it is not unheard of to have a corrupt sheriff in 2013, I thought it would be interesting to tie into the fact that the mob out of Chicago controlled much of Hot Springs up until roughly 1965, especially at Oak Lawn Racetrack.

If the sheriff was controlled by the mob, it would make sense that he closes kidnapping cases as quickly as possible before any Federal authorities go involved. Of course, that meant I had to learn all I could about Hot Springs and neighboring towns from that historical perspective.

One of the first places I went to was the Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce, and they sent me several brochures about the bathhouses and other places of interest. One of those places was the Gangster Museum, which turned out to be a treasure-trove of information. One of the things I found out was that the mob leaders would often come to Hot Springs for meetings, staying in the hotels, visiting the bathhouses, and taking care of business while they were there. Working that into the story added a lot in terms of motivating the sheriff while adding some historical interest.

My initial research was done via the Internet and through the material sent by the Chamber, but I did take a trip to Hot Springs just as I was finishing the book. I thought it was important to see some of the places I was writing about, as I have a hard time describing something I have not seen. That is why I don’t write fantasy or science fiction. I would be hopeless trying to create whole new worlds and societies, and I admire those who can do that and make it seem to seamless.

But I digress.

For accuracy in reporting, I also though I should probably visit one of the bathhouses while I was in Hot Springs. Not just interview people like I have done with research in the past, but actually have the whole spa experience. After all, I was going to have my central character, Leslie, visit one of the houses, so I needed to know what it was like. Right?

Leslie and I both enjoyed the wonderful hot springs in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

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Maryann MillerMaryann Miller is a best-selling author of books, screenplays and stage plays. She started writing as a child and dreamed of fame and fortune. She’s still dreaming. However, she is thrilled at the attention that some of her books have received, including Boxes For Beds.  It is her first indie release and has already received some good reviews on Amazon.

 Miller has won numerous awards for her screenplays and short fiction, including the Page Edwards Short Fiction Award, the New York Library Best Books for Teens Award, and first place in the screenwriting competition at the Houston Writer’s Conference. She has been writing all her life and plans to die at her computer or out in her garden in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas where she lives with her husband, one horse, one goat, one sheep, one dog and four cats. The cats rule.

  You can find out more about Maryann Miller’s  books at her Website   and Blog    and connect with her on Facebook   and Twitter        

Published in: on July 31, 2013 at 6:35 am  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Heidi, thanks again for hosting me here. This is a good reminder for me to visit more often. I really enjoyed your post about the rain. We check out the clouds regularly here in Texas, too, always hoping for more rain.

    • Thank you, Maryann. It is fascinating to learn how other authors do their research. And this is a fascinating subject. I really enjoyed the book.

      • Thanks so much, Heidi. If you have a mind to, I’d love a review on Amazon. (smile)

      • Of course I’ll do a review, Maryann!

  2. Loved how you outlined the research process – moving a little nugget of an idea into a full-fledged read. Getting curious about this blog and book. Thanks.

    • Glad you enjoyed learning about my process of research. Often stories start from a little news bit and it is so much fun to see where imagination takes it. This is a great blog, so I do hope you come back. And you wouldn’t be disappointed with the book. 🙂

  3. Did visiting a bathhouse change what you wrote in the book? Love that you did both virtual and on-scene research.

    • Helen, I really couldn’t write the bathhouse scenes and so much of what happened there had I not visited there. It is one thing to look at pictures, but quite another to walk through the rooms and then actually experience the bath. The two women that Leslie sees while she is waiting to be taken back to the private bath are based on women I saw while I was waiting. I know you do this kind of research, too, and isn’t it a thrill to find so much to flesh out a scene?

  4. What a delightfully (for readers) macabre subject. Isn’t it wonderful where research can lead you?

    • Carol, like I said to Helen, it is a thrill to follow the research down a path. So many things came to me while I was in Hot Springs. Not just in the bathhouse, and those details would not be in the book had I not visited the city.

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