Thursday, 20 August 2015




You can’t write historic fiction if you don’t like research. The questions I kept asking in one scene after another are; “what does it sound like? What does it smell like? What does it taste like?” I have to be able to answer those questions.

Everyone knows the expression “Remember your audience.” Well, a writer needs to take that seriously. Who is going to read historical fiction? History buffs! I have read too many books with sloppy research, who have characters using a telephone five years before it was invented. Or referring to Vernon and Irene Castle’s performances taking place years before the two of them had even met. Once I spot those errors, the author has lost me.

I need to NOT lose my readers. In writing Wealth and Privilege, I read the street maps of Pittsburgh for the years of my book, from 1875 to 1889. And newspaper accounts, and biographies and histories and street directories. But I also had to pay attention to every little detail. Once I almost likened a character to a bad-tempered Pekingese (my grandmother had one when I was a child). Problem is, that breed wasn’t around yet in 1875! So if I hadn’t checked my facts (my husband spotted that one for me), I would have lost all the dog lovers in the audience. Parts of Minneapolis were called St. Anthony’s Falls when my character was there. I would have lost readers from Minnesota if I hadn’t checked my facts.

To talk about a person’s life, I have to talk about food, and dancing, and clothing, and transportation, and the weather. Popular hobbies of the time. All of these things need to be researched. I happen to be a Vintage dancer and a costumer, so those elements come easily to me. I have a few old cookbooks in my personal library, because I know they weren’t eating Heinz ketchup on Oscar Mayer hot dogs in 1875. There’s no fast food, no microwaveable dinners, no macaroni and cheese. No Wonderbread. So, what were they eating? I had to go look it up.

Research also allows for the most marvelous surprises! Who knew that rollerskating was a big craze in the 1880s…? I stumbled across that tidbit while looking for information about the new Rover Safety Bicycle. Once I knew about “rinking,” I had to find a way to use it.

Because I love the history, my readers trust me. I’ve had several readers send me messages, or write reviews, that comment upon the historical aspects of the story. They feel like they really were there at the Johnstown Flood, or the Railroad Riots of 1877. I had based those chapters on newspapers and other eyewitness accounts, and the events really ring true when my characters get caught up in them.


Wealth & Privilege by Jeanette Watts

Money. Family. Love. Hate. Obsession. Duty. Politics. Religion - or the lack thereof. Sex -- or, once again, the lack thereof.

Thomas Baldwin finds himself married to a woman he can’t stand, while head-over heels in love with another woman he can’t have. Talk about bad planning. He feels like a kite, buffeted by circumstances which blow him not only through personal crises, but also through some of the most significant events in Pittsburgh during the late 1800s, including the railroad riots of 1877, the creation of the Homestead Steel Works, the assassination of President Garfield, and the Johnstown Flood. Over time, and with the help of his muse, who dances maddeningly just beyond his reach, he takes control of his life, wresting it from the winds attempting to control him.

A carefully-researched historical novel about life among the privileged class of Pittsburgh during the Industrial Revolution.

About the Author


Jeanette Watts has written television commercials, marketing newspapers, stage melodramas, four screenplays, three novels, and a textbook on waltzing.

When she isn’t writing, she teaches social ballroom dances, refinishes various parts of her house, and sews historical costumes and dance costumes for her Cancan troupe.

Jeanette will be awarding a Victorian cameo to a randomly drawn winner (International)

via rafflecopter during the tour!

Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. Thanks GF and JEANETTE WATTS for a great post!

  2. Wow! Amazing amount of research~I don't think I would have the patience! Thank you for sharing!