Writers are sometimes asked where they get their ideas for a their books. There is really no clear answer for every writer nor for every book. But after writing five novels and one nonfiction, I have come to the conclusion that, for me, the key to inspiration is waiting for that nudge that begins to toy with my writer’s muse. In the case of Saratoga Letters, one of those inspiring thoughts was literally from a key.
My husband and I were visiting Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2014. We stayed at a 1970s era motel along the main road. It had the simple décor of most motels from the ‘70s—two beds with nondescript bedspreads, a slight step-up to the shower area, old white and black tile, and the standard solid black phone that was the main source of communication for visitors before cell phones were birthed.
But one of the main differences between modern day hotels and older motels is the key. In 2016, keys look like a credit card. In the 1970’s, a key was a metal device attached to a plastic key holder that was inscribed with the room number. It didn’t inspire me at first, until I looked for my key when we were checking out.
“Where is it?” I searched through my purse, around the floor of the car, and everywhere I could imagine a key slipping away from my safekeeping. My husband tried to be patient. We were already so tired from traveling hundreds of miles, that a lost key became an annoyance. I told the motel owner that I had lost the key and I was so sorry. I was sure I’d find it tucked in a suitcase or something. And of course, I eventually did—after I returned home!
But this lost key suddenly became more than a minor annoyance. It became the impetus for a story idea. I had already heard from a historian at Saratoga National Park Service about a bicentennial celebration in 1977. It was the commemoration of the 1777 win by the American troops at Saratoga, New York. So what if the fact that there were two keys to each motel room during the ‘70s meant that a female visitor to the bicentennial was in danger? What if there were leftover, deep-seated feuds from the original battle in 1777? What if hatred had sifted down through the generations to complicate the lives of those in 1977? What if… but wait. I don’t want to give the plot away entirely.
It is 1777. The Battle of Saratoga, a turning point of the Revolutionary War, encourages the American Continental Army with their first great victory. But there seemed little to celebrate for one patriotic woman forced to nurse wounded British soldiers right in their war camp. Thrust into deception by a cruel Loyalist uncle, Abigail is forced to lie in order to survive, all the while dealing with fears that challenge her faith. Danger stalks her everywhere, yet her salvation springs from an unexpected source.
Two hundred years later, on the anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga, thousands arrive from Europe and the United States to celebrate the event—including descendants from the war. One young American, Abby, meets another offspring of a British soldier. When her life is threatened, Abby turns to the only person she knows at the event—her British ally. Can she trust him with her life? Or will he betray her in the same way Loyalist spies betrayed her ancestors? Perhaps letters from long ago will reveal the truth.
Award winning author Elaine Marie Cooper is the author of Saratoga Letters, Fields of the Fatherless, Bethany’s Calendar, and the historical trilogy called the Deer Run Saga. She has been captivated by the history of the American Revolution since she was young. She grew up in Massachusetts, the setting for many of her historical novels.
Her upcoming release is Legacy of Deer Run (CrossRiver Media, Dec, 2016), Book 3 in the Deer Run Saga.
Cooper has been writing since she penned her first short story at age eleven. She began researching for her first novel in 2007. Her writing has also appeared in Fighting Fear, Winning the War at Home by Edie Melson and the romance anthology, I Choose You. She has also written articles for Prayer Connect Magazine, Splickety Prime Magazine, Better Homes & Gardens, and Life: Beautiful Magazine. She began her professional writing career as a newspaper freelancer.
You can read more at her website/blog, www.elainemariecooper.com