This is a question that I often ask myself when I write historical books, as I try to put a little bit of myself onto each and every page, but first, I have to ask myself - who would I have been in this setting? A female pistoleer? A housewife managing home births and a house full of children? A lady of the evening? A spinster? A woman so in love with her freshly enlisted husband that she dresses as a man and joins up to fight alongside him in war? A midwife or doctor?
To gain inspiration, I often look to the place where we can find most of our answers to today's problems and questions - - - the past! One good thing about living in the 21st century, aside from thyroid medication and coffee makers, is the access to websites like Ancestry.com.
So today, I want to look to my late grandmother for inspiration. She passed from this life in March of 2008 after a battle with lung cancer following a lifetime love affair with Marlboro cigarettes. She outlived two husbands and a son, and had two daughters. But there was more to her than a couple of sentences. Much, much more.
She was born in the 1930's, but even in those "good old days", there were bullies. And one particular bully laid the foundation for her early life. She developed womanly curves at a younger age than other girls, which made her a spectacle. And a target. After her jealous nemesis ripped off her homemade sweater on the playground, she quit school and married young. Her first husband died - but nobody knows how since we only found out about him after her death. She never spoke of him, nor the stillborn son of his that she delivered. The son, who would have been my uncle, we found out about immediately after her funeral. It was almost as though he, or she, was reaching out from the other side to tie up loose ends with those of us left behind.
The next man in her life turned out to be my biological grandfather, who fathered her two daughters before he went to prison. My mother and late aunt knew him for a few years, through visits to prison and shortly thereafter . . . but they were 7 and 5, with my mom being the younger. Why was he in prison you ask? Bank robbery, plain and simple.
In prison, he taught himself painting and classical Greek. When he got out, he killed himself.
Then, she married my grandfather. The half-Choctaw, half-Scotch man who helped shape my childhood. If my childhood had an actual shape, it would be something like John Wayne, with cacti and a hat and a pistol in a holster.
She lived with Pawpaw until her death and they had lots of adventures that included finding dead bodies, witnessing shootouts during bank robberies (wow, how THAT must have felt), and rescuing and raising many unwanted animals.
Who do YOU draw inspiration from?