old home

How I Choose My Subject Matter

I subscribe to a great blog called ‘OldHouseDreams’. I would say for obvious reasons! This great blog is administered by ‘Kelly’ who has an eye and a heart for old houses. She scours real estate listings across America (and other countries) for old houses that are on the market. She doesn’t select according to her own personal style preferences. I respect that. Every style, every condition, every situation are represented. Very grand to very humble. The main criteria:  that the house have redeeming architectural significance and not too much ‘remuddling’ or modernizing.

This is a blog after my own heart. I rarely (read: never) see the offerings without finding at least one old house that has captured my imagination. The interesting thing about the site is the fact that she has an enormous number of followers. What does that mean? It means that there are many, many people out there like my husband and me. Lovers of old homes–their beauty, artistry, their craftsmanship and historic significance.

Today, when I read the offerings, I was struck dumb by the cottage in England, Suffolk to be precise, that is listed for sale. It is reputed to have been built in the 14th century! I eagerly scanned the images and quickly, very quickly, fell in love.

As you have read in previous entries here, I love the novels of Martha Grimes. The stories Martha writes are about characters in England, the way they live, their customs and their quirks. After reading the books I became completely besotted with seeing England, the England I’d read about in her novels. Small villages, pubs, cottages. This beautiful home slots nicely into that fantasy.

The cottage listed is simply lovely. English through and through. Exposed hand hewn beams. Plaster walls, wide plank floors, fireplaces and enough charm to charm the fleas off a dog. It comes with a very nice price tag too. At this writing, approximately $575,000.00 (American dollars).  So unless we won last night’s lottery, we won’t be pulling up our Oregon roots—at least not immediately.

Tudor Style
Tudor Style Home in Oregon

If you read this blog and others like ‘OldHouseDreams’ you will learn things. You will learn about the rich heritage and architectural significance in this country as well as others. If you already like old houses you may find things you didn’t know. Just like when I read about Kragsyde, I knew nothing about it, but I was so fascinated by its history that I made it a point to learn about it.  Just as the young couple did who took it a step further and recreated the magnificent home.

This is part of the genesis of my work as a writer. Often authors are told “write what you know”.  Early in the years when I toyed with the idea of writing something more than my journal, that was the question I always asked myself. I have a number of interests, but few in which I feel I have enough actual knowledge to speak authoritatively. Art. Design. Old houses. That was the extent of my inventory of true knowledge. I know about cooking, but not enough to be an expert and write a cook book.

My own reading interests finally clinched it for me. My reading list is nearly always a mystery, suspense, thriller or an historical novel. (On that note, I especially love the books of Eric Larson – Devil in the White City, and others). So, as an author, I decided to combine my love of old homes with the fun of a good suspenseful murder mystery. Once I did, my characters sort of came to me without a lot of work. I’m from the south originally, so my character Scott Cooper is an amalgam of many boys I knew growing up. Madeline Abbott is an amalgam of many women I’ve known – with a bit of myself thrown in – who have struggled to find their place and their voice, even into their thirties and beyond.

I strive for the core of the mystery, suspenseful action along with a dose of humor. Because, if things aren’t funny once in a while, what’s the point?

Evan    www.facebook.com/ED-Degenfelder


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