Like most writers of fiction, I prefer to see a town before I write about it. There is nothing like walking the streets, smelling the air, and speaking to the locals to get a feel of a particular community.
Last weekend, I continued that tradition by visiting Johnstown, Pennsylvania. As was the case with the other towns, I'm glad I did.
Much like Wallace before the Great Fire of 1910 and Galveston before the hurricane of 1900, Johnstown in 1889 was an accident waiting to happen. Located 14 miles downstream of a reservoir held in place by a poorly maintained dam, it lived in fear of a breach. One hundred twenty-eight years ago today, those fears were realized.
Unlike the other towns, Johnstown had little warning of impending doom. By the time a sixty-foot wall of water and debris reached the city, the fate of more than 2200 people was already sealed.
I went to Johnstown not because I needed facts and figures but rather because I needed understanding. I found it in visits to two museums, conversations with area residents, a walking tour of the town, and even the rainy weather, which provided an authentic backdrop.
I am currently about halfway through the first draft of River Rising, my eleventh novel and the first in my third time-travel series. I hope to finish the draft by early July and publish the book by November.