Writing About The Great Depression

pexels-photo-934079.jpegIt probably all started when my father-in-law told my kids that the only toys he had to play with when he was little were an “old boot” and a stick and rocks that he turned into street baseball in Jersey City as a kid. There was no money for toys or extra things. Times were tight. It was not easy.

For years I had the story of Inn Significant in my head. I knew I wanted it to be about a woman who has to find her way in the world after a devastating loss, and I knew I wanted to call the book Inn Significant, because I wanted her to take over the running of the family inn.

I had two things to figure out quickly: (1) Where would I set the novel? and (2) What aspects of this “new life” at an inn will help her recover?

The answer to number 1 didn’t come as quickly as I would have hoped. In fact, I had every intention of setting the novel in Annapolis, as I did with Beneath the Mimosa Tree. However, upon reflection (and walking around downtown trying to find that perfect “spot” for the setting), I kept coming up empty handed. I’m a very “visual” writer—I need to “see” the place where my characters will live and breathe. I take tons of photographs and use them to guide my description in some cases (not all, sometimes I rely upon my imagination). Anyway, I called my mother one morning and asked her to come to Oxford, Maryland, with me on the Eastern Shore. She did, and as soon as I saw the Sandaway Inn is perched upon the Tred Avon River, I knew I had it. Milly’s character had a home, and I began writing feverishly, completing that novel in one summer.

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The answer to number 2 took years to form. I knew I wanted Milly to have struggles and even battle some depression, but I didn’t have the hook until that summer as well. The idea of Milly becoming aware of an old journal from the Depression era (1929-1939) that is found in the basement of the inn grabbed hold. It was just the hook I needed to complete the plot line of the story.

Honestly, I’ve always had some sort of fascination with this time period—from understanding the economics of the time to people’s real struggles to the clothing worn—and I’ve wanted to learn more about it. I spent time doing research on those years, and I wanted the journal to sound authentic, as if it really could have been written during that time period. I researched books, fashions and clothing, the way people spoke, the way people wrote, how the Depression affected folks, industries that failed or teetered and those that continued, and so much more. I enjoyed reading real stories from that era, and appreciate people who lived through it.

I’ve had fun writing three different types of books: Beneath the Mimosa Tree, written in in alternating he said/she said perspectives; Baseball Girl, which is full of reflections and is told in both third and first person; and Inn Significant, told in first person with the journals from the Depression era becoming a significant part of the story. A fan of period pieces on television and historical fiction, I can honestly say that I enjoyed folding The Great Depression into this modern-day novel, and I look forward to delving into historical fiction in the future.

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BooksStephanie Verni is a hopeless romantic, Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University, and the author of Inn Significant,  Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. Follow her on Twitter at stephverni or on Instagram at stephanie.verni.

 

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