(or, digging for research nuggets that lead to Gold!)
Did you ever make a treasure hunt or hide eggs for children? I’ve done more hunts than I can possibly remember. But every day I find myself digging for treasure when I’m writing a novel. I’ll use examples from my novels to explain.
- The Chatelaine: Have you seen a Chatelaine in a Museum? A Chatelaine, means “mistress of a castle”, and is a chain holding various and sundry household tools like sand timers, needles, thimbles, scissors, magnifying glass. Madame Pommery received a Châtelaine from her husband for her birthday, much like getting a mop or set of deluxe sponges. What does it say about their relationship and her life?
Each novel has many “props” that speak volumes about a character. It can be a personal item like a locket, or a vanity mirror with a large crack in it, or a wine-tasting cup, like Veuve Clicquot received from her great-grandmother. I also consider transportation, the environment, where the character lives, and what she wears (or doesn’t wear, as in my upcoming novel, SILVER DOLLAR) All of these can be intriguing symbols of the character and her plight.
- Curse or Gift? In Champagne Widows, Barbe Nicole-Clicquot is told she has Le Nez, the Nose, an extraordinary sense of smell that makes her a great wine maker. It also makes her particular, persnickety, and difficult. Her parents say Le Nez is a curse. Her grandmother says it is a gift that will change her life by making her an extraordinary wine maker.
Character traits form a character’s personality and also sets a course for her future. An ironic character trait makes for controversial and delectable conflict and soul-searching.
- Unrequited Love: I write Biographical Historical Fiction about real women who lived in our past. Inevitably there’s a love that did not work out. These are gold nuggets! Why didn’t they work out? Who was hurt? What are the consequences? Could they ever get together? And if not, how do they feel about it? All of these aspects of unrequited love add such emotion to a story.
In Madame Pommery, Creator of Brut Champagne, she hires a young intern, fifteen years younger than her, and his intelligence and helpfulness make her slowly fall in love with him, though it is quite inappropriate. She cannot marry him, or by law he’d own Pommery Champagne House. Ah, unrequited love.
- Family squabbles: Families are usually an unresolved dilemma. Madame Pommery has trouble with her son who wants to run the champagne house without knowing what to do. She has trouble with her daughter because the toddler is always underfoot. Her mother is cold and unloving. Ouch! Family differences make good reading, especially when they create havoc for the protagonist. To research information about these family squabbles, I look at the available facts and extrapolate what they could mean. For example, Madame Pommery’s son is 17 when she starts the winery, and he doesn’t join the business for 5 years. Even then, he was not given an important position. And, when Madame Pommery dies, she makes her assistant the head of Pommery, not her son. Those facts add up to a gold nugget for the story.
- Friend or Foe? Who can you trust? Who has an ulterior motive? In research, I look for clues about who were Madame Pommery’s business associates, friends, and foes. Then, I look for ways that their relationships can change during the book. For example, Madame Pommery’s banker helps her when her husband dies, but his ulterior motive is that he wants to be her partner.
- Habits and Hobbies. I love to research quirky habits and hobbies characters can have. In Champagne Widows, Barbe-Nicole Clicquot’s father has a secret room that he works on constantly, because he doesn’t have the money to hire it done. Barbe-Nicole’s mother loves outrageous fashion and falls deathly ill from the arsenic dye. Both of these are facts that I researched about those real people!
- Trials & Tribulations. What are the events of history that affect the characters? For example, in GOLD DIGGER, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor is about the Gold and Silver Rush in the nineteenth century, women’s right to vote, and the politics of the day, the Chinese workers imported to build the railroads and mines, then they were hated and killed. All these aspects add texture and context to the story. To research this information, I use libraries, buy books, internet searches, interview historians.
- Location, Location, Location! I visit the towns or area I’m writing about and visit every home, winery, mine and theater in search of clues about the person I am writing about so I can breathe life into them on the page.
- Skeletons: Everyone has skeletons in their closets, and if you can’t find them for your character, you didn’t look hard enough. The Skeleton can be a human condition like: mental illness, poverty, alcoholism. Or it can be a horrible wound the character suffered, like rape, or losing a child or an affair gone terribly wrong. Character skeletons need to be found and written on the page to make characters feel, hurt, and heal, or not.
- She said What? Since I write about real people, I search for real quotes, letters and stories about them to use in building her character. Madame Pommery’s quote informed the entire book, setting the stage from where she came, what she wanted and why, and what her success would look like.
“Inevitably, I find myself in a predicament where the rules do not apply, or worse, they contradict each other.” ~Jeanne Alexandrine Pommery
~Rebecca Rosenberg, #1 Amazon Best Seller, Madame Pommery,
Creator of Brut Champagne
Champagne Widows, the first woman of champagne
Madame Pommery, Creator of Brut Champagne
By Rebecca Rosenberg
Series: Champagne Widows Series
Publication Dates: March 2022 / April 2023
Publisher: Lion Heart Publishing
Page Length: 368 pgs.
Genre: Historical Fiction
EDITORS CHOICE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY
MADAME POMMERY, Creator of Brut Champagne
“A tour-de-force of historical fiction, Madame Pommery is a deeply fascinating work that blends true-to-life details with artfully crafted elements.” –Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize
Madame Pommery is a story of a woman’s indomitable spirit in the face of insurmountable odds. Set in Champagne, France in 1860, Madame Pommery is a forty-year-old widow and etiquette teacher whose husband has passed away. Now she must find a way to support her family. With no experience, she decides to make champagne, but no champagne makers will teach her their craft. Undeterred, Madame Pommery begins to secretly excavate champagne caves under the Reims city dump and faces numerous obstacles to achieve her dream. From the Franco-Prussian war that conscripts her son and crew to the Prussian General Frederick Franz occupying her home, Madame Pommery perseveres. She even must choose between her champagne dreams and a marriage proposal from her former lover, a Scottish Baron. Inspired by a true story, Madame Pommery is a heroic tale of a woman’s strength and determination to create a champagne legacy. If you enjoyed the novel Sarah’s Key, you will enjoy Madame Pommery.
CHAMPAGNE WIDOWS, the First Woman of Champagne
EDITORS CHOICE HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY This engrossing historical novel by Rebecca Rosenberg follows Veuve Clicquot, a strong-minded woman determined to defy the Napoleon Code and become a master champagne maker. In 1800 France, twenty-year-old Barbe-Nicole inherits her great-grandfather’s uncanny sense of smell and uses it to make great champagne, despite the Code prohibiting women from owning a business. When tragedy strikes and she becomes a Veuve (widow), she must grapple with a domineering partner, the complexities of making champagne, and the aftermath of six Napoleon wars. When she falls in love with her sales manager, Louis Bohne, she must choose between losing her winery to her husband to obey the Napoleon Code, or losing Louis. In the ultimate showdown, Veuve Clicquot defies Napoleon himself, risking prison and even death. If you enjoyed books like ‘The Widow of the South’ by Robert Hicks or ‘The Paris Seamstress’ by Natasha Lester, you’ll love ‘Veuve Clicquot’.
These titles are available to read on #KindleUnlimited.
Madame Pommery: https://books2read.com/u/bW6GL1
Champagne Widows: https://books2read.com/u/3kBekW
Champagne Widows Series Links:
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0BSTJPZX3
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B0BSTJPZX3
Rebecca Rosenberg is an award-winning novelist, champagne geek, and lavender farmer. Rebecca first fell in love with methode champenoise in Sonoma Valley, California. Over decades of delicious research, she has explored the wine cellars of France, Spain, Italy, and California in search of fine champagne. When Rebecca discovered the real-life stories of the Champagne Widows of France, she knew she’d dedicate years to telling the stories of these remarkable women who made champagne the worldwide phenomenon it is today.
Rebecca is a champagne historian, tour guide, and champagne cocktail expert for Breathless Wines. Other award-winning novels include The Secret Life of Mrs. London and Gold Digger, the Remarkable Baby Doe Tabor.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Rebecca-Rosenberg/author/B075WGKJ3Y