Researching historical fiction takes a writer down many intriguing paths and you get to meet lots of interesting people. In the early days of exploring Jake and Eli's world, one of my favourite field trips was to Upper Canada Village, down the highway from Ottawa, near Morrisburg, Ontario. It's been a few years since my last visit, and this time I had the pleasure of meeting up with good friends: Iain Mitchell of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Jack Tarantino of Jersey City, USA.
It was also my first opportunity to bring the Jake and Eli books back to the place that fed my imagination.
Upper Canada Village recreates the world of 1867. Much had changed in the 55 years since Jake Eli were boys. They would have marveled at the technology of the woolen mill.
But the saw mill is pretty much the same as Eli envisions building.
Best of all, my trips to Upper Canada Village enabled me to learn from the knowledge and research of the staff who are passionate about reenacting their roles as the townspeople of the era.
A very special thank you to Linda Brown, who operates the printer's shop in the village. She gave me much information that went into the part in Brothers at War where Jacob apprentices to Joe Willcocks. I imagined Linda's shop when I pictured the scene where Jacob and Eli are clowning about and tip over the letter cases.
The staff of the village were pleased to welcome Jake and Eli's books to their premises. This gentleman tends bar at Cook's Tavern, where they serve ginger beer and sarsaparilla -- Joe Willcocks would have preferred something stronger at the Yellow Tavern in Newark.
It was at Upper Canada Village in July, 2009, that I first met the re-enactors who are keeping alive the memory of Joseph Willcocks and the Canadian Volunteers.
That weekend, the Canadian Volunteers were at Upper Canada Village for the "Grand Tactical" -- an event that brings together War of 1812 re-enactors from across North America. Thousands of re-enactors from Canada and the United States were commemorating the Battle of Crysler's Farm, which had been fought on November 11, 1813.
Neither Jake nor Eli nor the Canadian Volunteers fought in the actual battle of Crysler's Farm, but the American campaign to attack Montreal and the subsequent defeat of 4000 American soldiers by 800 Crown soldiers under Lt.-Col. Morrison had an enormous impact on what happened far away in Niagara. That's a story I'm exploring as I research and write book 4, "The Company of Traitors."