Saturday, October 12, 2013

Windows into the Past by Sarah Shaber

Sarah Shaber is the author of LOUISE'S WAR, LOUISE'S GAMBLE, LOUISE'S DILEMMA (Nov. 2013), the Professor Simon Shaw murder mysteries, BLOOD TEST (2013) and editor of TAR HEEL DEAD. Website:


Thank you, Kaye, for asking me back to Meandering and Muses.  I’m delighted to be here, especially as the third book in my Louise Pearlie mystery series, Louise’s Dilemma, will be published in November.  It was in this space, in 2011, that I described the thrill of getting my contract for this series, my second.
Louise Pearlie is a “government girl” working for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC, during World War II.  In the 1940s, obviously.  But I find that many of my fans ask me if I go to Washington to research my book.  And I answer, not in person! Washington DC during World War II was a very different place than today.  My job as a writer setting an accurate scene during the past is to visualize the location as it was then, without the corrupting influence of the present. 
I do this by using photos from the period.  Most of them I locate in in old magazines, movies and maps, which I find on Ebay.  My most precious possession is a 1942 Esso tourist map of Washington. It shows not only the layout of the city at the time, but many of the government buildings, hotels and department stores.  So Louise can find her way from her boarding house near Dupont Circle to the Mayflower Hotel or Woodies in no time!
I’ve also found that using Google images is a quick and easy way to locate specific photographs.  In Louise’s Dilemma, Louise and Joe go ice skating on the Reflecting Pool during the unusually cold weather of 1943.  With little problem I found this photo of two girls taken a bit earlier than 1943, but still giving me a sense of what the scene would have looked like.


Since Louise works in an office I am always on the lookout for what government offices looked like during the war.  Here’s one that I think gives a good picture of what Louise’s environment might have been--acres of filing cabinets surrounding women typing at desks in one large room, supervised by a man!

And just for the fun of it here’s a photograph of the White House lit up for an evening event.

When I’m writing my books I print out photographs and pin them up around my office so I can feel as though I’m with Louise, working hard to help win World War II!


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Sarah, Welcome Back to Meanderings and Muses!

I always enjoy reading and hearing about your research, and this piece is especially delightful. I LOVE the photos you've been able to find.

Patty said...

Great post, I need to start another series (thanks a lot, I already have way to many!).

One hint, if the Library Of Congress ever opens again, go to their American Memories section. Thousands of photographs from all over the country from all time periods. And, since they are LC they are easy to get, most are copyright righted but if you are just using them for yourself you should be okay.

Pat Browning said...

Sarah, your new series sounds great. Your name rang a bell so I checked my Kindle for PC file. Surprise, surprise. I have 2 of your Simon Shaw novels just waiting for me.

I jumped right into Simon Said and read 3 chapters and was hooked. I like Professor Simon Shaw, and I will read that series before I start reading about Louise and her WWW2 adventures.

So much good reading waits for me! Thank you, and thank you, Kaye, for hosting Sarah. Her research, and photos, are fascinating.

Pat Browning

Anonymous said...

I was delighted with the Simon Shaw series & disappointed when they came to a conclusion. However, though entirely different, I'm enjoying the Louise series every bit as much. I was fortunate to get an early printing of Dilemma. It's another delightful page-turner.

Thanks for all of the great reads!

Mardy Hall