Authors have to get their facts straight. Authenticity is a huge part of storytelling. It’s true! For me, that means getting my boots on the ground. I’m a total research nerd, and immersion is by far my favorite method for getting the details perfect, especially when it comes to locale. I can watch movies and tourist videos, review photos and ask questions, but there are some things I just have to experience to understand. Culture is one of those things. So, I travel. (Hey, what can I say? It’s a tough job). Once I’ve exhausted all the resources available from home, I compile a list of my remaining questions, buy my plane tickets and wave adios to rural Ohio. C-Ya!
My latest destination? New Orleans. July 28th – August 2nd. It was Ah-Mazing.
**I was there. I took this photo. I still can’t believe it.**
(That’s St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square, the heart of the French Quarter)
I’d read about the city for months, years really, it’s been a lifelong dream of mine to visit. I’d even interviewed several lifelong residents, but I still didn’t know what it felt like there. I needed to know. I’m very “method” like that. I have to experience things as a means for understanding them. It’s how my brain works.
(This was my new boyfriend… until he dumped me for a voodoo doll)
What was I saying? Oh yeah. Despite all I’d read, I still didn’t know what NOLA air felt like on my skin or what it smelled like. What was the vibe there? How about the people? The accents? The traffic? Road conditions? How about the most common expressions, attire, sights, sounds…I could go on. I really could. I have a list. So, when one of my 2014 mysteries was named a finalist in the BTS eMag Awards in New Orleans, I made plans to get answers for my research, and while I was at it, I’d attend the Red Carpet Awards! Look at me getting all the birds with just the one stone!
**Red Carpet Awards selfie.** Told you I was there!
Okay, but before the awards, I spent about three months making an hour-by-hour itinerary for six days beginning at 6:00 am each morning and ending at midnight each night. I stayed three nights in the French Quarter and two in the Central Business District. In the Quarter, my hotel (Dauphine Orleans) was haunted and so was May Bailey’s, the attached bar and former brothel. The bar was haunted by brothel workers and Civil War soldiers, in case you wondered. People really think this. Ghost hunters have been there to *document* the happenings. It’s adorable. The hotel was one little block away from Bourbon Street, so the only strange things I saw during my stay came crawling home at dawn in last night’s clothes….or lack thereof.
As an aside: everything in NOLA is allegedly haunted. NOLA folks are incredibly superstitious and believe all the things, so I learned quickly to nod, appropriately wide-eyed, in faux agreement. They didn’t understand or appreciate my: Ohio people think that’s hokum attitude, so I adjusted. I mean, when in Rome, right? Haunted, you say? 0_0 Oh, my!
Anyway. I took a three hour segway tour around the neighboring boroughs, visited Armstrong Park and fun places like Treme.
I rode streetcars and took a jazz dinner cruise up the Mississippi.
I took the ferry to Algiers.
Toured a convent and two cathedrals.
Went on a culinary history tour through the French Market and watched them make beignets and pralines. Yum!
I did a Ghost tour through the French Quarter, and a historic pub crawl down Bourbon Street,
(That’s me in the center with my go-cup)
two cemetery tours,
I enjoyed a delightful walking tour of the Garden District and got tons of details for my book,
The true crime tour wasn’t as fabulous as the others, but I went! I also visited three local museums including the 1850′s house, the Cabildo and the Presbytere, where I learned about the city’s history from actual city historians,(My inner nerd is still amped about this) plus I read up on the evolution of Mardi Gras and saw tons of jaw dropping displays.
I sobbed inside the Katrina museum like a baby. I just can’t with that. SMH.
I had the muffaletta at Napoleons
and a purple drank at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop. (Not a typo. It’s called a purple drank).
I ordered cafe au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde, and they were delicious.
Spoke to fifty cabbies and soaked in three hundred years of everything in roughly 120 hours (traveling, even by plane, took the better part of two of my days – one going and one coming BUT I took notes on that too, all in the name of research). Oh, and did I mention the Faulkner House Bookstore in Pirate’s Alley? Gorgeous. I died a little in there. Happily.
I loved this trip more than most. It was a lifetime in the making for me, and it culminated in a little extra unexpected baggage for the plane ride home.
I won at the Red Carpet Awards! My novel, Murder Comes Ashore, took first place in the Mystery category and earned an honorable mention for their readers’ choice novel of the year!
Ahhh, I miss you already, New Orleans, but you’ve cultivated a place in my heart, and one day I’ll have novel proof of your impact on me. *Stage sigh* I seriously LOVE research!