Sunday, August 9, 2015

THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND Revisited

I am now working on my next historical novel for young readers, to be called A Scalp on the Moon.  It is set in 1675 in Massachusetts, and it is a kind of homage to one of my favorite childhood books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare.

My main character will be a young man from London, however, rather than a young lady from Barbados.  (Of course, a young lady will be part of the story, too.) He has a particular background that makes him just as objectionable to Puritan colonists as anything in Kit Tyler's colorful past.

Anyway, after a trip to New York City for a family wedding celebration, I decided to make a stop in Old Wethersfield, CT, on the way back to New Hampshire, in order to visit the setting for The Witch of Blackbird Pond. There is an antique colonial home there, the Buttolph-Williams house, which Elizabeth George Speare may have used as the "home" for Kit Tyler and the Wood family in the story.  As it is roughly the same era as the setting for my new story, I thought it might be fun to explore its interior for inspiration in writing A Scalp on the Moon.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the 17th century house was closed to visitors because of a very 21st century problem: an alarm that kept going off every time anyone went inside, so all tours were cancelled.


Therefore, we were only able to walk around the outside, but that was inspiring enough.

Here is the back of the house. Notice that there are no windows.  It is theorized that the actual man who originally built the house planned to add on at the back, or that glass, which had to be imported from England, was just too expensive to put windows on the back. William Ashby, the young man who courted Kit Tyler in The Witch of Blackbird Pond, was building a house with sixteen diamond-paned windows, which was a clear indication that he was quite wealthy.

 You can clearly see such diamond-paned windows on the next picture showing the side of the house.






Here is the front.  I enjoyed picturing Kit Tyler arriving here (although it was very early spring  and misty and muddy when she did so) with her seven trunks of clothes and possessions.

Speare described it in her story like this:

"She relaxed slightly at the first glimpse of her uncle's house. At least it looked solid and respectable, compared to the cabins they had passed. Two and a half stories it stood, gracefully proportioned, with leaded glass windows and clapboards weathered to a silvery gray."


Here is the front door. When Kit Tyler arrives at this door, Speare describes what happens like this:

"The captain lifted the iron knocker and let it fall with a thud that echoed in the pit of the girl's stomach. For a moment she could not breathe at all." 



Note the "door nails".  These just might have been the origin of the expression "dead as a door nail". Here is one possible explanation of this from http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dea1.html:




Finally, I had to include this picture of the other side of the house because the sun hitting the lens gave it an "otherworldly" aura suitable for the house of a purported witch!

It was a thrill for me to make this visit to the past (including my own past as a young reader).

I will be writing more about A Scalp on the Moon as I get further into the story.

Meanwhile, I will go back to writing about A Buss from Lafayette, in anticipation of its release in April, 2016!