Aspiring historical fiction writers assembled at the Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, NY today and I was flattered to be included as their guest. Their questions really ran the gamut, but the gracious people there seemed most interested in the why’s and how’s of getting started on a novel that is based in historic fact. I always say that I was spurred on my way by working up the portrait of Margaret Hardenbroeck, the real-life fur trader in my book The Women of the House, and wanting to further develop that character. To invent, where I only had the bare facts to begin with. She became Blandine. Then, I was attracted to the spookiness of the term “orphanmaster” itself, and thought it would be a terrifying concept to build a mystery around. Finally, Gil gave me a push, when he saw how much material I had left over in my notebooks and computer files after learning so much about 1660s New Amsterdam for The Women of the House. Why don’t you use some of that stuff in a novel, he said. And when I protested that I never had written a novel and couldn’t write a novel, he said, Well, write me a murder. And that I found I could do — the result was the unfortunate demise of Piddy Gullee in The Orphanmaster‘s prologue. Everyone has their own creation myth and that’s mine, but it of course was just the pinch that got me moving.