Readers of Her Dear & Loving Husband recognize Salem State College (now Salem State University, thank you very much) as the place where James and Sarah work. Jennifer, the Wiccan, works there too.
In Her Dear & Loving Husband, my vampire James Wentworth has inserted himself into the human world as much as he can. If he wants to seem human, I decided, then he would have a job. What job? English literature is the only subject I can discuss with any intelligence, so James became an English professor. An odd job for a vampire, but, as James himself says in the novel, any job besides Grim Reaper would seem odd for one of his kind. I wanted his love interest, Sarah, to work at the college, too, since it’s easy for them to run into each other if they work together. She became a college librarian. I did a search for colleges in the area, and there was Salem State College.
During my online research I discovered, much to my surprise, that there was no library at SSC. The building was unsafe so it was closed down. Without a real library to describe, I decided to create my own. I found some photos, probably of the temporary library for the students at SSC, so I used those images in my descriptions, along with memories of the library I used for years at CSU Northridge, to create a backdrop for James and Sarah.
While on the campus I stood in front of Meier Hall, the School of Arts and Sciences, where Sarah spies on James while he’s teaching his Romantic Poets class. She’s just learned that he’s a vampire, and she doesn’t know what to think of him at this point. It’s one of my favorite scenes in the novel. The university is larger than I imagined, or at least more spread out. It’s a beautiful campus, fresh-looking, clean, and the green of the grass and the new trees make it an inviting place to be. Of course, I wasn’t taking or teaching any classes. The summer school students may not have found it as inviting as I did. This visit to SSU might not have been the most exciting part of my trip to Salem, but I’m glad I took the time to walk the campus for myself.
Right across Lafayette and down the block, in the state park near the bay, is Pioneer Village. More than any place in Salem, walking onto the grounds of Pioneer Village is like falling into a time warp to the 17th century. The Salem Witch Museum and the Witch Dungeon Museum were interesting, but I didn’t feel the pull of the 1600s in the museums. I felt like a 21st century tourist looking at scenes from the 17th century. At Pioneer Village, you walk into meadow-like grounds of overgrown grass, weeds, trees, front yard gardens, and historically accurate replicas of the homes of the earliest settlers to the area. The costumed docents walk you around, explaining everything, answering questions. Pioneer Village was the closest to a complete immersion into the past I found in Salem.
I didn’t have a lot of time in Boston, but I walked the Freedom Trail, led by a knowledgeable, costumed guide with a great sense of humor and more than a passing resemblance to George Washington. I ate lunch at Faneuil Hall and saw what was perhaps the highlight of my trip—the hotel where Charles Dickens stayed during his trip to Boston in 1842. I also snapped a picture of the building that housed Dickens’s U.S. publisher. Maybe not as exciting to non-Dickens fans, but I thought it was pretty cool seeing those buildings for myself.
It feels fitting, describing my trip to Massachusetts in three parts since the James and Sarah saga is a trilogy. My mother suggested that next I should write a novel set in Hawaii so I could go there to do some research. Not a bad idea. Anyone have any thoughts for a historical novel set in Hawaii? Maybe something about its famous king?