Sunday, January 31, 2021

Behind the Scenes: LIFELIKE Chapter Two

 Chapter Two:

SPOILERS ahead for my book, LIFELIKE.

If you have not read the first two chapters yet, go and read them now--then come back here to read about how I created Chapter Two.

Behind the Scenes Chapter One Link: http://sheilanielson.blogspot.com/2021/01/behind-scenes-lifelike-chapter-one.html

When creating LIFELIKE, I wanted the house (The Margaret Kensington Doll Museum) to be like an actual living character within the book. I wanted it to be both comforting and frightening both at the same time. This chapter is our introduction to the museum and all of its many secrets. It let's the reader know exactly what they are in for if they choose to follow Wren on the rest of her adventure.

When I was a teenager, my mother took me to visit the McCurdy Historical Doll Museum in Provo, Utah. As a kid who was obsessed with all things miniature, I remember the wonder of entering that place for the first time. It was a magical experience that I would never forget. The McCurdy Historical Doll Museum had been shuttered for years before I got the idea to write my story, so I couldn’t revisit it as part of my research for the book. During the time that I was in the middle of writing LIFELIKE, a friend asked me about my book, and I mentioned how my experience visiting the Mccurdy had influenced my desire to have a doll museum in my story. She told me she knew Shirley Paxman, the owner of the McCurdy and that she would be willing to set up an interview with her so that I could ask all the behind the scenes questions I needed to about how a doll museum was run day to day. I could not have been more excited to meet this amazing woman. Shirley very kindly invited me into her home and sat down with me, a completely unknown writer, to patiently answered all my questions. She was the one who taught me about poured wax dolls, just like the haunted ones in my story. She also shared with me many fun stories about the different kinds of people who visited her museum and their reactions to the all the dolls. Some of these true stories have found their way into the final manuscript of LIFELIKE. Shirley Paxman passed away in 2015, so she will never get to see LIFELIKE, the novel she helped to create. But she is reverently mentioned in the book’s acknowledgements because of the important role that she played in bringing Aunt Victoria’s beautiful Doll Museum to life.

In an interview (https://ksltv.com/398799/woman-inherits-responsibility-finding-home-4000-antique-dolls/) , Shirley Paxman’s granddaughter relayed a story about the dolls in the McCurdy Historical Doll Museum that I found very interesting:

“My grandmother told us—all of the grandkids—that at night the dolls would get out of their cases and mingle and then go back in different places,” Bentley said. “I think that they’re enchanted. I don’t think that they’re haunted, necessarily.”

I remember asking Shirley if there were a lot of visitors who came to her museum who found dolls to be creepy. She very adamantly let me know that most people who visited actually found the dolls inspiring, enchanting, and filled with the wonder of their history.

And thanks to The McCurdy Doll Museum, that is what The Margaret Kensington Doll Museum in LIFELIKE became. A place full of inspiration, enchantment, and mysterious history.

If you are interested in seeing some of the dolls in the McCurdy Doll Museum, there is a video attached to the article in the link to the interview above. Take a look!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Behind the Scenes: LIFELIKE Chapter One

 

SPOILERS ahead for my book, LIFELIKE.

If you have not read chapter one yet, go and read it now--then come back here to read about how I created the story.

I’ll wait.

Still here?

You’ve been warned.

The idea for LIFELIKE came to me over ten years ago. (So, yeah, it can take a very long time for a book to finally get published.) I collect dolls and dollhouses, which means, I often get catalogs from doll companies in the mail. It was as I was looking through one of them many years ago, that I first saw a collection of dolls for sale. It was a full wedding party. (Bride, groom, bridesmaid, flower girl, ring bearer, etc.) Something about that group of dolls took hold of my imagination. I could not shake away the thought that a group of dolls that were made together--and sold together--would be a different kind of dolls. They would have shared history. And that’s when I began wondering all those questions that an author must ask themselves when beginning a new story.

What if?

What if the dolls had been around a very long time? So long that they had actually come to life?

But what would cause dolls to come to life after all this time?

What if they had been made to look like real people? People who had been part of a real wedding that had never taken place. But why would a wedding not take place? Because of a murder. And a murder meant ghosts. Which would explain how the dolls had come to life.

If the dolls did come to life, how would that effect the people who owned the dolls? Would they be afraid? Or would the dolls become their friend? As I thought up answers for all these questions, the story of LIFELIKE began to form within my mind. I could not stop thinking about it. The more I knew about the dolls and their tragic history, the deeper I was drawn into their tale. It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up in the morning, and the last thing I thought about as I feel asleep.

The only problem was, I was already in the middle of writing another book at the time. One that I had put a lot of time into already. But this new story kept taking over, demanding to be written—right now! But I resisted the temptation—over and over.

Then one day, my mother was talking to me about something and realized that I hadn’t heard a single word she said—mostly because I had just thought up another great new twist to the haunted doll story that I was determined NOT to write until I’d finished the other book. My mother stopped talking and asked me what had me so distracted. I laughed and told her about the new story. She made me tell her all about it. The WHOLE thing, from beginning to end. When I finished telling the tale, my mother had tears in her eyes.

“I think you need to write that story,” she said.

So I did. Beginning that very day.

And now you have read the first chapter of that book--started so very long ago. I am excited to take you all along on the journey with me as I cover each chapter.

As this is an open discussion, please feel free to write any question or thoughts you might have had as you read the first chapter—and I will answer those questions in the comments below. Keep your eye on this page and chapter two will soon follow.

 

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