THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
When my editor at American Girl asked if I’d like to write a mystery about Josefina, I was delighted! This project combined several of the things that I love to learn about: history, people with different cultural backgrounds, and an intriguing and beautiful landscape.
I started by reading all of the existing Josefina books. It was essential that I be respectful of the wonderful writing done by Valerie Tripp, who created Josefina.
Then I began reading about New Mexico history. But before going too far into my research, I needed to travel to New Mexico and experience Josefina’s terrain myself.
My first stop was El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a wonderful living history museum near Santa Fe, Mexico.
I knew that a visit to El Rancho de las Golondrinas would give me a great glimpse of what Josefina’s rancho would have looked like.
The historic rancho dates from the early 1700s, and was an important stopping point along the famous Camino Real, the Royal Road from Mexico City to Santa Fe.
Next, I went exploring. The New Mexico landscape is very different from what I know at home in Wisconsin! I took several hikes, imagining Josefina traveling with her aunt to look for medicinal plants.
I visited several very old churches so I could study the architecture and construction styles.
While in New Mexico I also visited several traditional museums. The old postcard below shows the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, which is now full of exhibits about the region’s history and culture.
The hand-made malacate (spindle for spinning wool) described in Secrets in the Hills is just like an old one on display in Santa Fe.
I found more inspiration in New Mexico than I could fit into one book. Why not try writing an historical story set in your community? Visit an historic site or museum and see what sparks your imagination!