I see my stories in my head while I write. (Do you? But I do not see faces, go figure.) It only goes to reason that my novels would be inspired by images, right? Actually, The Last Bathing Beauty is the first of my four books to be inspired by a photograph and an article. I’d learned about South Haven and started digging around. I not only found out about the Historical Society of South Haven, a place (and person) I’d get to know well, but when I saw this article and photo, I knew the story I needed to write.
I wondered who she was — and what about her made her simply the Zipperstein granddaughter? What was that summer like for her? What did she do after that? I didn’t dig or delve or research — I IMAGINED. And Betty was born! (When I enlarge the article it’s all blurry, and love ya, but not retyping it. You’ll have to wait and read MY VERSION in the novel. THAT was fun.)
Here’s a look at the contestants. Times have changed!
Here’s a close up of Miss South Haven and another girl, and as you can see, their sashes were embroidered with the name of the resort they represented. I guess it was like having a sponsor, but I do imagine that the win was as much for the resort as the young lady. I know that was the case for Betty!
It was fun to have this kind of inspiration, and that of an entire era in South Haven as my inspiration. It was the first time I was staying true to a time period and place I had not lived in. It reminded me how much I love the research process, and how easy it is to spend hours poring over books and articles and photos. It’s now my preferred writing companion — and I already have a magazine from 1962 that has sparked my idea for book #5.
I guess I could’ve gone anywhere with an idea taken from these pictures and words. I hope you’ll enjoy the path I followed to write this book!
PS In April I’m posting one bit of writing advice every day for 30 days, then in May I’ll be back with weekly updates and The Story Behind The Story. (But I’ll be around with updates until then)