Guest Chick: Liz Milliron

Kathleen here. I’m so thrilled to welcome Liz Milliron, author of two fabulous series: The Laurel Highlands Mysteries and the new Homefront Mysteries, which just launched yesterday(!!) with The Enemy We Don’t Know. Today she’s here to share with us her research about, well, research. Take it away, Liz!

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The Enemy We Don't Know Cover FINAL

Thanks Kathleen and all the Chicks. It’s great to be back.

As Vickie blogged about last week, readers often want to know about the research that goes into a book. What do I, as an author, do to learn what I need to know to write the story?

There are a variety of answers to this question. Some folks, like Chick Cynthia Kuhn, have experience in their protagonists chosen field. Others, as Vickie wrote, go on “field trips” to interview and observe people. Really lucky ones, like Deborah Crombie, get to go on trips to Europe and walk in the very same locales as their characters.

Research for my Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, a contemporary police-procedural, is rather straightforward. I have police officers and lawyers I email with questions (because I am not a cop or a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV). I take frequent trips to the Laurel Highlands. It’s all good, as they say.

But when I decided to write The Enemy We Don’t Know, set in Buffalo, NY in 1942, I faced a conundrum. I’m from Buffalo, originally, so I knew quite a bit about the city and its history, but I didn’t have a T.A.R.D.I.S.* to zip back in time and observe events as they happened. I didn’t even have a Wayback Machine**. What was I to do?

A few things, as it turns out.

  1. The internet

The Web is a magical place. Any writer will tell you it’s a rabbit hole one can easily fall down, but I did my best to stay focused. What did the P-39 look like? Thank you, Google Images. What did the clothing look like? There are so many websites on this it’s crazy. What did a factory worker make per week in 1942? The Bureau of Labor Statistics has tables going back for decades (the answer is about $33 by the way). What was the average cost of a movie ticket? Also lots of tables of data on this one (average price of a movie ticket was twenty-five cents). I found websites that gave the history of various words, including when they came into use, so I could avoid using ones that weren’t in use in time period.  Fortunately, the streets of Buffalo have not changed much, so I spent a lot of time looking at Google Maps, which not only gave me street names, but the borders of neighborhoods such as Kaisertown and the First Ward.

 

  1. Talking to people

My father is not quite old enough to have known Buffalo in 1942 (he was born in 1947). But he’s a history buff and he did spend his childhood in the area, which was not so different than what I was writing. Dad found me information on bus routes and verified what language would have sounded like. And since Betty is loosely based on his mother, he gave me insights into her personality that allowed me to bring her to life.

  1. Movies and books

This one was SO HARD (just kidding). I read a lot of books set in the time period, such as Renee Patrick’s wonderful Lillian Frost/Edith Head series, and Kathryn Miller Haines’s Rosie Winter books. And I watched many of the same movies Betty would have seen in the theater, although I dialed them up on Amazon or Netflix. Doing so allowed me to get a sense and rhythm of speech to craft realistic dialogue, instead of having my 1942 characters spout anachronistic phrases.

  1. The Niagara Aeronautics Museum

These folks were wonderful. I found their website one date and on the spur of the moment, decided to call them. Their mission is to document Buffalo’s contribution to air and space history, including operations of Bell Aircraft during WWII. They have a recovered P-39 at the museum and part of their grounds are from the original Bell facility. When they found out I was writing a novel that featured their beloved P-39 and Bell history, they were thrilled. I wasn’t able to visit, but I exchanged many phone calls and emails with museum staff to discuss details of the factory and operations, and they recommended several books on how the planes were built. I hope to be part of a live event they are staging in the spring.

 

Far from being the drudge or chore I feared it would be, the research for this book was fun. I’m looking forward to the next book, and doing it all over again.

* Time And Relative Dimensions In Space

** Anybody remember Mr. Peabody, his Wayback Machine, and his boy, Sherman?

About the Author: 
lizmilliron_color
Liz Milliron is the author of The Laurel Highlands Mysteries series, set in the scenic Laurel Highlands and The Homefront Mysteries, set in Buffalo, NY during the early years of World War II. Heaven Has No Rage, the second in the Laurel Highlands Mysteries, was released in August 2019. The first book of the Homefront Mysteries, The Enemy We Don’t Know, was released in February 2020. Soon to be an empty-nester, Liz lives outside Pittsburgh with her husband, two children, and a retired-racer greyhound.
About the Book:
The Enemy We Don't Know Cover FINAL

November, 1942. Betty Ahern is doing her part for the war, working at Bell Aircraft while her older brother and fiancée are fighting overseas, but she really wants to be a private detective like her movie idol Sam Spade. When sabotage comes to the plant, and a suspected co-worker hires her to clear her name, Betty sees it as her big chance.

As her questions take her into Buffalo’s German neighborhood, Kaisertown, Betty finds herself digging into a group that is trying to resurrect the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization. Have they elevated their activities past pamphlets and party-crashing?

When the investigation leads Betty and her two friends into a tangle of counterfeiting and murder, as well as the Bund, the trio must crack the case–before one or more of them ends up in the Buffalo River…wearing concrete overshoes.

Now Available from Liz Milliron:
The Enemy We Dont Know (Homefront Mysteries #1) 
Root of All Evil (Laurel Highlands Mysteries #1)
Heaven Has No Rage (Laurel Highlands Mysteries #2)

23 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Liz Milliron

  1. What a wonderful new series! I love books set in the WW2 era (and before). Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your research. Would you like a way-back machine? I would IF I could pop home for a shower whenever I wanted.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Capturing a different time must be so hard. I can see it being tempting to give into stereotypes of the time rather than creating a clear and independent character. Sounds like your homework really paid off– looks like such a great read! Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. I write a contemporary series (Natalie McMasters), but also Sherlock Holmes pastiches set in Victorian England. Each has it’s own particular challenges. Nattie is a 21 year old woman and I’m a 67 year old man, so I’m continually watching young folks vids on You Tube to get the language right, as well as to get a sense of what’s important to young people these days. The setting for the Natalie books is fictional, so I can pretty muh do what I want with that. For Holmes, I’m extremely fortunate that there’s a wealth of Victoriana on the Internet, including street and alley level maps of London, which I can use to lend authenticity to my work. I also have a British beta reader who will ruthlessly expunge those annoying Americanisms that creep into my stories.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I love doing research all those ways, too. But with a lot of stuff, I head to the children’s section of my library. You can find easily understood explanations of all kinds of technical stuff. One particular treasure trove is the series of merit badge booklets put out by the Boy Scouts. Very helpful!

    And yes, I have a children’s series of fun time travel romps I used to describe as “Peabody and Sherman meet Quantum Leap.” Kids never got it, but the adults always did.

    Congrats on your new release! Looking forward to it!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Research is very fun if you are interested in the subject, and it sounds like you definitely are.

    Of course I remember Mr. Peabody and Sherman. I’ve got all of the Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes on DVD. Getting time to pull them out for a rewatch.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Rabbit hole, indeed–sometimes so much so that it’s hard to get back into the writing part of writing, lol.

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Liz, and congrats on the new series! It sounds fab! And I hope you do get to go to the Niagra Aeronautics Museum this spring; it sounds amazing!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Research is a must for me since I write medical/pharmaceutical mysteries and work waaaaaaaaay outside those disciplines. The internet is my favorite place to get started (and get lost in), and I always follow-up with interviews with the pros. So helpful, not only to check my work and provide insight, but also add details that really bring the material to life.

    Congrats on the new series! I’m so excited to read!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, like when I write the Laurel Highlands series – I’m not a cop nor a lawyer. And TV is not the best resource so talking to people is essential for accuracy and, as you say, the details.

      Thanks – and I hope you enjoy!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Liz, you can’t pay me to watch movies from the 1930s and ’40s — I do it for free! (And for the record, I think you should play a cop or lawyer on TV. You’d be great!) The new series looks wonderful! Congrats — and thanks for hanging out with us today!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Oh my goodness, this all sounds so wonderful! I cannot wait to read. The research sounds like it was fascinating. As a Rochester girl, I’m especially intrigued to read about Buffalo back in the day. 🙂

    Congratulations, Liz, and hope you’re having a terrific book birthday week!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Liz, huge congrats on your new book/series! It sounds fabulous–and what a beautiful cover. One thing I always wonder about that time period is, did every woman have a Scarlett O’Hara-sized waist? And how did they all get their hair and makeup to look perfect when they were so busy with the war effort? (As someone with super-straight, non-movie-star hair, I really want to know.) Loved hearing about your fascinating research. My family is from upstate NY, and there’s a special feel to the area for sure.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Liz, so sorry for the late comment but I was at a book event all day. Great post! The new series sounds wonderful. I love historicals! AND the forties. If you haven’t, watch Preston Sturges movies. His language of the times is AMAZING. I just stole an image for my own WIP, a contemporary Cajun Country. But I love it so much I had to borrow. In the movie, I forget which, a character says to another who’s pacing, “You’re diggin’ a trench.” I have a character who’s watching another character pace say words to the same effect. AND one of my fave Sturges lines ever is from “The Lady Eve.” “Every Jane in the room is giving him the thermometer.” GOLD!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ellen! I don’t think I’ve ever watched Preston Sturges. I’ll have to look them up. Of course I say that, and it’ll turn out to be one of those, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen this” moments. 🙂

      Like

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