Donna Winters has been writing since 1982, and published since1985. Her Great Lakes Romances© series features fifteen of her historical titles with Michigan settings of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and one contemporary romance. Now, she has written an historical novel set in 1830 about her hometown of Brockport located on the Erie Canal in western New York State. The ebook version has recently been released.
Dreams of floating on the Erie Canal have flowed through Lucina Willcox’s mind since childhood. Yet once her family has purchased their boat and begins their journey, they meet with one challenge after another. An encounter with a towpath rattlesnake threatens her brother’s life. A thief attempts to break in and steal precious cargo. Heavy rain causes a breach and drains the canal of water. Lucina comforts herself with thoughts of Ezra Lockwood, her handsome childhood friend, and discovers a longing to be with him that she just can’t ignore. Can she have a future with Ezra and still hold onto her canalling dream?
Ezra Lockwood’s one goal in life is to build and captain his own canal boat, but two years into the construction of his freight hauler, funds run short. With his goal temporarily stalled, and Lucina Willcox back in his life, his priorities begin to change. Can he have both his dreams — his own boat, and Lucina as his bride?
Donna, what inspired you to write Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal?
I began writing historical romances in 1984. My husband, who was an American history teacher, has a real passion for Michigan history, so Michigan settings took the stage in my novels. Over a twenty-five year span, Michigan history was what I did, and fifteen romances resulted.
Then, after finishing one of my trilogies, I was pondering what to write next when a friend of mine waxed eloquent in a blog post on why he wrote about his hometown. I began to feel guilty that I had not set any of my historical stories in my hometown, or even my state, New York. About that same time, I came across an old novel about the Erie Canal. That got me to thinking. Maybe I was supposed to write a story about Brockport, the village twenty miles west of Rochester where I grew up.
My family’s home in Brockport was about a quarter mile from the Erie Canal. When a canal boat horn blew and the bridge bells began to ring, my sister and cousins and I would run up the Main Street hill to catch a ride on the lift bridge. Yet what did I know about the Erie Canal and its history? Only the song we sang as kids, “Low Bridge”. You probably remember it, too. Here are the first four lines:
I’ve got a mule, her name is Sal.
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
She’s a good old worker and a good old pal.
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal.
I began to feel that now was the time to write about Brockport and the Erie Canal, so I went online and ordered several used books on the canal’s history, both fiction and nonfiction. I ended up with about a two-and-a-half foot long shelf filled with nothing but Erie Canal titles plus a couple of Brockport books. I longed to capture the excitement of the early days on the canal – not the first years, but a few years into the canal’s history when its lingo and customs had been established. The canal was fully opened from Albany to Buffalo in 1825, so I arbitrarily set my story in 1830 in my hometown. As it turned out, Brockport was chartered as a village the previous year, so even though it had been established in about 1823 when it was the temporary terminus of the canal, it was really a very new village, even in 1830.
In studying the early history of my hometown, I discovered that certain businesses were prominent due to its location on the canal. One was that of canal boat building. The business was one of many owned by one of the town’s two founders. So I decided to make my hero a canal boat builder working for that true historical founder of the village. I’m sure my choice of occupation was influenced by the fact that my husband is a hobby boat-builder and loved the idea of learning how early canal boats were constructed.
One of the greatest assets of Brockport’s location on the canal was that it gave the local wheat farmers access to transportation for their crops to the flour mills in Rochester, twenty miles to the east. In that era, the entire Genesee Valley region was economically dependent on wheat. If the crop failed, all suffered. If it succeeded, all prospered. So I decided to make my heroine’s family wheat farmers. And further, I chose to have her father, mother, younger sister, and younger brother go canalling, leaving the farming to the four oldest boys.
Thus, Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canal was born with a heroine whose passion was to go canalling, and a hero whose goal was to build and captain his own freight-hauling canal boat. With the heroine traveling the breadth of the state and the hero staying put to build his boat, this could not be a romance, but it worked well as an historical novel with a strong romantic thread. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it!
To learn more about Donna and her books, visit the following locations:
Bluebird of Brockport, A Novel of the Erie Canalhttp://www.greatlakesromances.com
Thanks for sharing with my readers today, Donna!