SUBJECT AND SETTING
The easiest subject to write about is the one you know the most about. I knew before I wrote the first sentence of THE PRINCE IN THE TOWER that the book would feature a Methodist minister, his family, and his ward. My dad was a Methodist minister, so I’m familiar with the underpinings of the United Methodist Church. As for wards, I had read about wards and guardians in novels, but never knew any in real life. Like Augusta Evans Wilson wrote [in VASHTI]: “The only wards I ever knew happened to be fictitious characters.”
The setting of a novel is like a frame around a portrait. If the frame is too dark or too light and if it doesn’t complement the colors in the portrait, it will take away from the picture.
I wanted a nostalgic setting that enhanced the old-fashioned romance I had in mind. I chose the City of Fairfax, not only because it is historic but because I lived nearby and spent many hours walking through the town and researching its role in the Civil War. History is one of my favorite subjects and the City of Fairfax fit the bill. I deliberately put the parsonage right in the middle of “Old Town” Fairfax City near the scene of “Mosby’s Midnight Raid.”
The fictional parsonage was a conglomeration of houses I had written up when I had a real estate column in THE CONNECTION, a local paper in Northern Virginia. Using the best features of some of the houses I reviewed, I created the interior; but the exterior of the parsonage was solely inspired by the antebellum Moore House, which is behind Truro Anglican Church and across the street from what used to be the Black-eyed Pea Restaurant.
While writing the novel, I got permission to tour the Moore House, which housed a business at the time. I was delighted to see that the house has two staircases just like the fictional parsonage. The Moore house has thirteen gables as well, so I created a parsonage with thirteen gables.
Thirteen gables added a nice touch to the modern gothic theme I was developing, not to mention the secret room on the third floor hidden behind on
e of the gables.