Now that one manuscript is out and about, making the rounds on its route to publication, I’ve turned my attention to my next project: a novel set in 1942. Most Americans are aware of the incarceration of thousands of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but few people are aware that some young Nisei (American born children of Japanese immigrants) were released from the relocation camps so that they could attend colleges in the Midwest.
But what was it like for the Nisei students and for their classmates? It’s a story that is begging to be told.
So here are my mood-makers:
- Music is an important part of my process. I listen to it while I write, and I listen to it while I think about writing.
I’m really enjoying the sounds of the era! Jimmy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and Glenn Miller are my newest soundtrack. I imagine my characters dancing and enjoying this music while they go through their school days and dances.
2. Feet on the ground, imagination in the past
My story takes place at Park College, a place I’m quite familiar with. Although the campus has changed a lot in the decades since 1942, some of the same buildings remain. I love to explore the campus and let the ghosts of the past speak to me.
The archivist on campus has generously provided me with lots of original material from the period: school newspapers, yearbooks, news clippings, and more. In the years after their college days, some of the Nisei students provided long narratives describing their experiences at Park. These are a treasure-trove.
3. Living it like it was
Although I can’t step back to 1942, I have some wonderful resources to help me. One of my main characters is the same age as my mother was in 1942. Mom’s scrapbook provides me with some wonderful glimpses of the past. The house she grew up in was also an important part of my childhood, and some scenes in the book take place there.
But my “hands on” part of this book came unexpectedly:
This little gem is a Singer portable machine, commonly called a “featherweight.” It belonged to our aunt, and we discovered it after she passed away. One of my characters is a seamstress (as my mother was–and is). This item will be important to my story. She’s been cleaned, oiled, and is ready to go. Now I just need to find a few vintage patterns to help me stitch the stories of two characters together.