My personal life and writing life intersected in an unexpected way this past weekend. As many of you are already aware, I love old houses. I love the history they absorb into their very foundations, and the stories they could tell – you guessed what I am about to say – if their walls could talk.
I spent this past weekend at the former home of one of the Ringling brothers of Ringling Brothers Circus fame. Once they all started making serious money from the circus, three of the brothers built large homes in the town of Baraboo, Wisconsin. This was where they started the circus, and where they returned with the circus each winter to rest up the animals and prepare new acts for the coming year. One of the homes was destroyed and another is now a museum. But the third home stayed in the family for over 100 years, and was only recently sold to someone else. It is now a B&B (http://ringlinghousebnb.com), which is how I was able to stay there.
Aside from being a gorgeous old home, I soon realized it also would be the perfect inspiration for the home my hero lives in with his mother and younger brother. They are also a wealthy family, so would also have a large house. Plus, the age of the house is about right. As a result, I spent a good portion of the weekend looking at the various rooms in the house and visualizing my characters there. As a bonus, the property also includes the original carriage house/stable, the barn, and even a cottage Charles Ringling built for his mother-in-law. It is a perfect example of how a Midwestern estate in the early 1900s might have looked.
Our hosts at the B&B were very gracious and gave us a tour of the home, from the walk-in safe in the basement to the unexpected fine woodwork inside the carriage house. The house has been very well preserved and still has all of the original woodwork and huge pocket doors from when it was built. And let me say, the library at the back of the house, with its bow window and built in mahogany bookcases, would be the perfect place to sit and write. Or, since I can’t do that, I can at least imagine my hero sitting in there working late at night.
All in all, what started as a weekend spent with friends became much more than that. I now have great pictures (mental and physical) for the home which is the primary location in my current story. And I had a great time exploring a historic old house in the bargain. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
I write historical fiction, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.