Five things I didn’t know I’d need to know before writing my historical novel

Posted by

ASTOR PLACE VINTAGE was my fifth novel, but my first with a historical setting. I like to joke that when starting out, I figured the research would just involve Googling a few details and I’d be good to go.

Okay, I wasn’t really that na├»ve, but still, I never would’ve imagined how much research would be involved. And I never would’ve guessed how much I’d enjoy doing it. Gathering information is nice and passive compared to writing a story that will use it.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of five things I didn’t know I’d need to know before writing Astor Place Vintage.


Click on the yellow flower to reveal the answer.


[expand title=”1. How common was it to have a telephone?”]Phones would generally only be found in businesses and homes of the more well-off. Most people made use of public phones commonly found down at the corner drug store and they might have to stand in line.[/expand]


[expand title=”2. Would an Italian Bakery serve espresso and cappuccino or just regular coffee?”]Regular. Espresso machines were not yet found in this country.[/expand]


[expand title=”3. Did tenement apartments have closets?”]Nope. But they didn’t have much change of clothes, either. A few hooks on the wall would do it.[/expand]


[expand title=”4. What kind of birth control, if any, was typically used at the turn of the 20th Century?”]The term “birth control” didn’t come into use until the second decade of the century, but people did have ways to prevent pregnancy. Condoms, sometimes called “rubber bags,” were around, but they were tainted by common use in brothels. There was always withdrawal or abstinence, of course, which were more respectable. Some women used douches recommended by friends, midwives or doctors, but these were not effective.[/expand]


[expand title=”5. Where do you put your gloves while eating in a restaurant?”]The best place would be on your lap under your napkin.[/expand]