14 Sep

I remember a few years back there was a children’s program called “Hooked on Phonics.” I suppose I could write my own program called “Hooked on Research.” I have often thought that if my life had followed a different path that I could have thrived as a research librarian. I love books. I love old books with gorgeous covers. I own some books that I have never read, but would not part with because I am fascinated by their vintage covers. Some I have read over and over, and they are tattered friends that flood me with memories of visits to second-hand bookshops in downtown San Diego with Elsie. We rode the bus and wandered thru old buildings filled with books.  I was nine when she bought me Louisa May Alcott’s “Eight Cousins” and the poetry collection “Silver Pennies.”

Two treasured books Elsie gave me in 1956.

I think she would be thrilled to know I have discovered a passion for historical research. She might be surprised that my first two books dealt with her story, and perhaps excited I am writing a historical novel about the country we called home for 38 years.

Research about life in Antigua (during the years 1740-1834) comes from numerous sources.  I sit at my computer near an old undated map of Antigua. It lists towns, churches, and forts. If I look with a magnifying glass, I can see that Sir William Codrington had six windmills on his estate.

When our children were young, my husband used to take them on adventures that included the sugar mills that were still standing in the early 1980’s. They documented on 3 x 5 notecards the name of the mill, date if they could find it, and the type of stone used. Those windmills have withstood over 200 years of hurricanes. Fun to think our children started my research nearly 40 years ago as they trudged thru thorn bushes and fought off yellowjackets that built nests in those reminders of sugar mill and slavery years.

Barb & Curt exploring the ruins at Betty’s Hope Plantation

Long before I ever dreamed of writing a book based on historical Antigua I was fascinated by the courthouse built hundreds of years ago and which remains a museum today. Nelson’s Dockyard, the site of the British Naval buildings constructed nearly 250 years ago, serves as a witness to the days Britain fought with the French for the possession of the Caribbean islands. I began collecting books about the Naval Dockyard in the 1970’s.


1984- Carin, Joshua, Dan and Christopher at Fort George overlooking English Harbour

These days I find myself reading thru Antiguan wills dating from the 1780’s, newspaper snippets from the same time period and even diaries of American women who lived on plantations in places like Georgia or South Carolina. Research and imagination link together in my mind to bring history to life.

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