My latest completed novella, A Faraway Life--one of three stories in an anthology titled Mercer’s Belles--involved a first for me, which was creating a story that had its base in real-life events. Anyone who grew up in Seattle has heard about these women who traveled from the East to Seattle in 1864 and again in 1866 and took on important roles in developing the frontier society. The single or widowed women relocated for the sake of becoming teachers in a territory with very few women. They either listened to an appeal made by Asa S. Mercer, former president of the Territorial University of Washington, in a Massachusetts church or read newspaper ads in eastern newspapers offering jobs. Every woman who chose to be brave and venture west saw the opportunity as one that would better her life circumstances.
On the planned four-month journey leaving New York City in mid January, 1866, was Roger Conant, a journalist for The New York Times. He journaled his impressions of the travelers, noted the weather conditions (including a lunar eclipse), and recorded the experiences of socializing at American consulates and foreign embassies in several ports of call. His job was to write accounts of the voyage for the newspaper and post them along the voyage. The venture was the subject of much debate with most people denigrating the women who made the trip as being desperate to obtain a husband. But the bulk of the women truly wanted to become teachers. Conant’s journal was not published in his lifetime. A chance meeting connected a researcher studying the Pacific Northwest and Conant’s niece who had Conant’s journal in her possession.
Ninety-four years after the trip, the journal was published. I took advantage of his journal entries (he wrote almost daily) and had my characters enjoy several noted events. Because of what I’m assuming is a journalist’s attention to detail, I gathered specifics about the ship’s layout, menu, social activities, and personalities, which proved a great help in shaping the plot during the voyage. I will look for similar firsthand sources for future books.
Mercer’s Belles, Timeless Western Collection book 3, will release on September 17, 2019.
BLURB for A Faraway Life
Teacher Sorcha Geraghty needs a fresh start after the death of her beau and a factory accident maimed her hand. Asa Mercer’s call for teachers for Washington Territory provides a new opportunity, and she joins his ocean-going expedition. Upon arrival, she learns of the expectation for the women to become wives to the many bachelors, and she has to figure out a new plan.
Logging manager Lang Ingemar needs a teacher to provide basic English instruction to his Swedish-speaking crew and keep them out of trouble when they go to Seattle. When he convinces Miss Geraghty to relocate to the logging camp, he has no idea the ways his life will be changed.
I will give away two copies to individuals willing to read and post a review within three days of the anthology’s release.