Friday, February 20, 2015

Research for a novel involved years of travel -- New York, Hollywood, the wild West

Time in Chicago's famed Palmer House
was part of the research for the novel,
"Lilian's Last Dance."  The characters
stay in the historic hotel enroute west.

Writers worked to give authentic feel to 'Lilian's Last Dance' novel project  

Click here==>>
to Dance with Lilian

LIGHTS, ACTION, drum roll! "Lilian's Last Dance" will be out in paperback in days.
The collaboration that began many years ago with my late husband, William Jones, came out on Amazon ebooks in late November.
Research took our writers to Durango, Mexico, birth place of
bandit Pancho Villa, a minor player in the novel.  A female
bandit in "Lilian's Last Dance" worshiped the Mexican outlaw.
Many requests for a paperback followed. That's happening, through a fine regional press, WordsWorth. We're excited.
Billy and I began writing "Lilian's Last Dance" in his healthy years, before heart and cancer surgeries and treatments which began in 2001 and ended with his death in 2005.
In his last days, he asked me to find forum for our project, but years went by before I had the heart and energy to revisit a project that had been dashed after high hopes and happy times.
I'D BOXED UP drafts, computer discs, travel journals, photos and notebooks from dozens of interviews.  A few years ago, I'd cheered up and began the rewrite,  mindful of the old cowboy admonition: "talk's cheap."
Now that "Lilian's Last Dance" is published, a bit of reflection seems appropriate.
Cowboys and cowboy lore were a big part of the research for
"Lilian's Last Dance." Key scenes take place in Montana.
"Lilian's Last Dance" was conceived in 1997 on a sunny Arizona drive, heading home to Phoenix from a Tucson  movie screening.
BILLY AND I PLOTTED the story on that drive.  We discussed settings and characters, determining to research through visits every locale. We named the characters and gave them stories.
In the next years, we spent time in rural Montana, where a couple key scenes to "Lilian..." take place.  We rode horses on ranch land in Hawaii, flew to Australia, where one of the minor villains grew up, and frequented locales in Europe, South America and a dozen U.S. states. Our characters got around, and so did we, including a stay in the Palmer House in Chicago, where our troupe of traveling actors spend a few days.
LILIAN'S STORY spans an eleven-year period from 1907 to 1917. Vaudeville is alive but waning.  The silent movies, the beloved "flickers" are paving the way for "talkies."
Bill Jones and Cookie traveled several times to Hawaii,
researching background of one of the novel's characters.
Sex, drugs and country dancing play parts in the story of a racy love triangle.  An unusual love affair develops between an understated British filmmaker, alluring French born sharpshooter, and dashing Montana outlaw, as they cross the country from New York to early-day Los Angeles.
Like their rep company, Billy and I explored Oklahoma, New Mexico, Nebraska and Texas. We spent many weekends in Hollywood, visiting studio archives. Our years as film reviewers and my time on both sides of the footlights as musician and performer provided helpful background.
WE PAID attention to accents, landscape and weather, developing our characters' speech, dress and refining the plot. We had fun with our artists, actors, movie moguls, ranchers, cowboys, lawmakers and law breakers.  Each new place -- from Tulsa to Ten Sleep -- gave detail for the carnival of color we concocted.
Alice B. Toklas, left, and Gertrude Stein.
Two research trips to Paris included
visits to the street of their famed art salon.

ON THE TRAIL of detail for our female villain (a Hawaiian born bandit and Pancho Villa wannabe) we visited "paniolo country" on the famed Parker Ranch of Hawaii, and Pancho's birthplace, a barren parcel in  San Juan del Rio, Durango, Mexico. We found the farm where he grew up, but since he was born in 1878 and killed in 1923, there was no one left who remembered him.

COMING UP: We pushed on to Paris, in search
of stories of Gertrude Stein and her famed salon.  One of our characters, a bisexual Peruvian painter about to make it big, is befriended by Stein and her partner, Alice B. Toklas, in "Lilian's Last Dance."  Read about that, and our trip to the painter's Peruvian homeland, and a look at innovative San Diego theater on tap. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us weekends at:

No comments:

Post a Comment