Friday, April 29, 2016

Country mouse/City mouse

I grew up in the very tiny town of Lone Elm Kansas. In a real sense, Anderson County will always be "home" to me. All of my family and my husband's family lived there and are now buried there.

In the Lottie Albright series, published by Poisoned Pen Press, the protagonists are twin sisters. Lottie is an historian who moved to Western Kansas when she married. Her sister Josie stayed in Eastern Kansas where they both were born. Writing about the two halves of the state has been a great way to play up the tension between the twins. Josie thinks Lottie is crazy for ever moving there. Lottie despairs of Josie's insensitivity to the grandeur of the prairie.

In fact the two halves of Kansas are like two different planets. The historic animosity of these two entities affects plotting in the series. I have lived in both places long enough to be acutely aware of the differences. Someone asked me once how this came about.

Militarily, Eastern Kansas is associated with the Civil War and Western Kansas with the Indian Wars. Eastern Kansas was settled much earlier. Western Kansas was labeled part of the Great American Desert and said to be virtually uninhabitable. It seemed to Eastern Kansans (the city cousins) that Western Kansans (the country bumpkins) were always looking for a hand-out.

In Western Kansas crops failed. Grasshoppers ate everything in sight. There were prairie fires and tornadoes and blizzards and Indian raids. Then by some miracle fortunes shifted. Western Kansas became the breadbasket of the world. Settlers struck oil. They discovered vast fields of natural gas.

Mining developed in Southeast Kansas and there was lively trade and shipping along the Missouri River. Population centers grew and suddenly the city cousins wanted part of their country cousins' tax revenue to finance their schools.

It's fun to watch the Albright twins argue about "their" place in the state as well as their roles in murder investigations. When a book stalls, try researching the history of your state or region. The information might jump-start your plot.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

Boy do I agree with your post, Charlotte. Eleven of my novels have been set in one side of Kansas or the other, the present work set in the Eastern half. I suppose most state histories are rich with good stuff for novels, Kansas sure is!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Can't wait to see you in June. Hope everything is going well for you.