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!