In Honor of FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition

Today’s post is an announcement, and it’s something I’m excited about. I hope my regular readers, who follow the blog for its discussion about writing, will either find it equally exciting or at least put up with it for the next two months. And I hope more readers will join in the chatter on this new topic.

The official publication date of FORWARD TO CAMELOT: 50th Anniversary Edition (co-authored with Kevin Finn) is October 31st, though the book is already available online. In honor of that, and as this fall is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, the event on which CAMELOT is based, I will be blogging more often here and EVERY OTHER blog, through October and November, will be on a topic related to JFK and/or the assassination.

Part of this is commemorating the event (and the fact that this blog is titled Let the Word Go Forth, a direct reference to JFK), but part is also about the writer’s life, celebrating one of the writer’s best tools: research.

Kevin and I spent literally years steeped in the research for CAMELOT. While I admit that research can be one of the great time-wasting activities of writers (“I can’t start writing; I’m still researching” – we’ve all heard that one), there are also writing projects that really can’t come into the world WITHOUT rigorous research. In the case of CAMELOT, it wasn’t enough just to research the facts of the assassination (a huge topic in itself). We also spent time researching a plethora of OTHER topics, which we used to make the world of 1963 Dallas, the setting for most of our novel, as alive, as real and as plausible as possible: the early 1960’s, JFK, his life, his family and his Administration, Lee Oswald and his life and mysterious associations, and the culture of the times.

I’ll also talk about how that research helped us fit together the complex puzzle that became the plot of FORWARD TO CAMELOT and how it made possible some wonderful moments in the book we could never have stumbled upon ourselves. (You can’t make this stuff up, folks.)

Here’s  just one tiny example of how research drove our plot:

In the story, our heroine is Cady Cuyler, an actress living in New York in the year 2000. Cady is smart and resourceful and courageous, and when she time travels back to Dallas in 1963 to solve one mystery, she discovers another mystery that begins with the disappearance of a young woman from the place where Cady gets a temporary job. In fact, Cady is taking this girl’s place as a telephone operator.

Cady looks for clues to the girl’s disappearance–how can a girl with little money and no motive to do so just vanish?–and at one point she finds a woman’s head scarf in a desk that has small metal photo frames on it. In this scarf there are several photos of this girl, obviously at a party, with a man.

That one came out of research. I found a terrific book called THE WAY WE WERE: 1963, THE YEAR KENNEDY WAS SHOT by Robert MacNeil. It was a fascinating look at popular culture and important events in that year, leading up to JFK’s assassination in November.  And guess what? In the October section in the book, there was a mention (and a photo) of a woman’s headscarf with those little photo frames spaced across it. It was a passing fad and only lasted about a month. But if Cady’s seeing this scarf in November, it’s not out of the question that a girl who likes the latest fashions would have bought one a month before when they came out.

Small? Sure. Not very significant at all. But it was a tiny detail that could help make the story feel real. And we used many of them.

I’ll talk more about the large and small issues we faced in the research for FORWARD TO CAMELOT in the upcoming weeks. Meanwhile, expect a regular writing topic post from me once a week, and a second blog about CAMELOT-related topics once a week, for a total of 9 additional CAMELOT-related blog posts through November.

Looking forward to ‘talking Kennedy’ with you this fall!!

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Posted on September 26, 2013, in JFK assassination 50th anniversary, Research and Writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I love these types of details Susan. The whole topic of JFK is fascinating as well as the topic of research before writing to add to the story and bring it all to life. I loved Camelot and am looking forward to the digging into the 50th anniversary version. I recommend this book to any JFK fans. The cherry on the top is the time travel aspect. With out a doubt, one of my favorite time travel stories of all time!

    • I’m not talking to myself here, nor did I write that very flattering comment! (I think my friend Kelly, who was just on my blog to check something and is a big fan of CAMELOT, wrote the comment.) And Kelly, I’m glad these details interest you; I certainly think they’re interesting, and I hope even for non-writers that they’ll resonate. Will write about a great many other such details as the weeks go by … so stay tuned, everybody!

  2. The little golden nuggets found in research, the ones that help flavor a story or provide an emotional turn where least expected, always make me proud. Did you all all know that the first Mary Kay cosmetics store had opened in Dallas just a few months before Kennedy’s assassination? Anyone remember Montgomery Ward?

    • Amen, Kevin! Totally agree. Though the research took forever, I think the results are tremendous. The comments that made me proudest from the original edition of this book were from people who said they REMEMBERED all the details of that world, and we got them right. That’s always good for authors to hear!

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