How I Build the World of Hattie Davish

Read this exclusive guest post from Anna Loan-Wilsey about the research that goes into each Hattie Davish Mystery, and make sure you're signed in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of A March to Remember!

In my Hattie Davish Mysteries series, we follow Miss Hattie Davish, a traveling secretary who solves crimes in each American town that she visits. So far, the towns have included: Eureka Springs, Arkansas, Galena, Illinois, Newport, Rhode Island, St. Joseph, Missouri, and Washington, D.C. The series is set in the 1890s.

As I aim to be as authentic as possible, I have had the opportunity to conduct a great deal of research, both of time and place. There is a great deal I am able to glean from both my own personal library (such as Sears & Roebuck catalogs, an encyclopedia of poisons, and a book of 19th-century menus) as well as from the internet. However, the most important aspect of researching my series is the site visit.

The very first thing I do once I’ve decided on the location of a book is set aside three or four days to visit the town. I have visited all the locations in the series before, but the research visit is dedicated for that only. I am always amazed of what I learn when I’m visiting a place not as a tourist, but as a writer researching her book.

When I arrive at my destination, I park my car (as Hattie is a hiker and prefers to walk over using public transportation, I do the same when possible), get out my digital camera, and walk the streets. Only by doing this can I get a sense of topography (several towns have hills that are quite steep and challenging to walk), the distance from place to place (I had to edit a plot idea I had after I walked the entire length of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Wow, that took me longer than I’d expected!), architecture, the character of different neighborhoods—as well as intangibles, such as how the light hits the buildings during a particular time of year or what the air smells like (essential for the seaside town of Newport). I do this until I’m satisfied that I’ve captured what I need to be able to transport the reader to this unique place.

The next thing I do is visit the local library. Local libraries are an invaluable source of historical information that can’t be found anywhere else (including the internet). This includes local history books, historical photograph collections, archived annual city directories and, most importantly, archived local period newspapers. I have found more information searching period newspapers on microfiche than any other single historical resource. For example, I discovered the minutes of a temperance union meeting in a Eureka Springs newspaper and a call to strike by “cottage” gardeners in Newport, both of which influenced the plots of their respective books.

After I emerge from hours at the local library, I head to the local historical museum, a source of unparalleled, otherwise inaccessible, information, expertise, and artifacts. In Galena, I stood inches away from personal possessions of President Ulysses S. Grant, and in St. Joseph, I was able to interview the city’s museum curator and walk the tunnels beneath what was once State Lunatic Asylum #2. I have also contacted local convention and visitors’ bureaus for maps, contacts, and any other information that will make my research trip as productive as possible.

Armed with this wealth of information, I am able to return home to my desk, put together all that I have learned, and create the town and the world as Hattie would have known it.

Read an excerpt from A March to Remember!

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As a librarian and information specialist, Anna Loan-Wilsey tracks down information every day that helps to solve mysteries. She earned her B.A. at Wells College and had several poems published in their literary magazine, The Chronicle. Readers can visit her website at


  1. Gordon Bingham

    These sound clever and well done!

  2. Gail Malane

    I would love to create a character like Hattie and do the research involved–putting myself in her shoes !

  3. Sally Schmidt

    What a great career! My life as a secretary was totally boring.

  4. Amy Houts

    Your careful research makes your books authentic, Anna. Thanks for sharing your process with us.

  5. Portia Asher

    I love historical mysteries, particularly ones that are well researched.
    The book appears to be a winner!

  6. Teresa Young

    A new series to enjoy – your research shows your dedication and I am sure comes through in your writing; I can’t wait to read!

  7. Karen Mikusak

    Would love to win!

  8. pearl berger

    Historical mysteries are captivating and fascinating. Great to learn about your research.

  9. ellie lewis

    Your research trips have been so interesting and allow me to enjoy the fruits of your labor which I appreciate.

  10. Karl Stenger

    I would love to read the book.

  11. Angie Stormer

    I enjoy reading historical mysteries that the author has put the effort into making it as authentic as possible. Also, I LOVE libraries. When I travel I always check out the local library. In small towns, it amazes me how well they have been maintained in their original condition. They are one of my favorite places to spend time at.

  12. Adrienne Hancox

    I have to admit that I’ve never read a Hattie Davish mystery however I definitely will now!

  13. bill norris

    so wanna check this out.

  14. Russ Cross

    I’d like to read this book and the rest of the series. The books sound like they are very detailed and authentic.


    Her research sounds thorough. I’ll have to look for her books.

  16. Linda Hobbs

    I am always impressed with the talent it takes to write fiction, especially mysteries. Further, I appreciate the effort that is put into each book with such extensive research onsite. I will definitely add Anna Loan-Wilsey to my “to-be-read” listing.

  17. lasvegasnv

    interesting kind of research

  18. Michael Carter

    Good interview.
    Yes, please enter me in this sweepstakes.

  19. susan beamon

    I didn’t realize how much work is involved in making up a story in a real place. Very interesting.

  20. Donald Isaksen

    Excellent interview, I’d love to have this on my shelf, enter me please.

  21. Sandra Furlotte

    I am so impressed by writers who choose to write historical fiction. I would love to read this book.

  22. Susan Pertierra

    I love historical fiction that has been researched properly, especially during this time period in history.

  23. Jeana

    Your dedication to research is both fascinating and admirable.

  24. alisonalm

    Historical Fiction that is properly researched is great to read.

  25. bearcollector80

    I was born in Washington Dc in 1935 but moved to California in 1936. Love reading about my birthplace

  26. Ruth Nixon

    I was born in Washington DC in 1935 but moved to California in 1936. Love reading about my birthplace

  27. Ron Pratt

    Sounds interesting. I look forward to reading the book.

  28. L

    I love hearing that authors actually take the time to visit a location they’re writing about. It gives such an authentic feel to the writing. Going through historical documents at the local library and the Historical Society are great ideas for researching period information.

  29. vicki wurgler

    sounds like a good murder mystery

  30. Jim Belcher

    But libraries are not necessary any more. They are old school. “everything” is on the internet. Books are a thing of the past (boy are they , the past, the present, and the future). 😉

  31. CindyB

    This series looks wonderful. It is interesting to hear about your research.

  32. Dolly Anderson

    Research is critical to the writing of a historical fiction books, as you want that element that makes it real, and in the end makes for a better story.

  33. Jane Schwarz

    It seems that you love the research as much as writing the books. Thanks for the opportunity to win.

  34. Daniel Morrell

    sounds like a fun one

  35. John Quiring

    Neat, as a history buff I’ll have to check this series out.

  36. Rhonda Barkhouse

    Well researched. I would love to read it.

  37. John Smith

    A mystery set in 19th century Washington would be fun! Gorgeous cover–really, really, gorgeous!

  38. Kathy Hudson

    As a fan of historical mysteries, I enjoy this series. I would recommend it to anyone who likes a strong female character.

  39. Laurent Latulippe

    Looking forward to reading this. I like that you explore the regions you write about.

  40. Ed Nemmers

    I would like to read the work of Anna Loan-Wilsey.

  41. Brenda Elsner

    I would love to read this book!!!

  42. Lori Walker


  43. Kim Keithline

    sounds great sign me up

  44. Deb Philippon

    I would love to read your books. Reading about your research would make me very aware of the settings.

  45. rikkijack

    Book looks like it would be a great read.

  46. Bellusion

    I’d like to read this

  47. Barbara Lima

    This sounds like an interesting new series!

  48. Tricha Leary

    love the opportunity to win

  49. Jerry Marquardt

    Thank yo so much for having this How I Build the World of Hattie Davish by Anna Loan-Wilsey givveaway, and for giving us all a chance to win.

  50. Daniel Vice

    I would like this

  51. alisonalm

    Interesting research and interesting book.

  52. Jennifer Brinker

    Thanks for the chance, I would love to win!

  53. Shannon Baas

    I would like to read this.

  54. Philip Lawrence

    Sounds interesting!

  55. Penny Snyder

    I love trying new authors – would love to read this!!~

  56. Vicky Boackle

    sounds terrific.

  57. Ann Muth

    sounds like a good read

  58. Carl White

    [b]Is Miss Hattie Davish as cute as Miss Anna Loan-Wilsey?[/b]

  59. Heather Cowley

    Road trips! That sounds like a great way to write!

  60. Lily

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  61. Sandy Klocinski

    Love historical mysteries! Interesting learning about your research methods. I always utilize the local library

  62. Susan Smoaks

    thank you for the chance to win

  63. rickel bart

    count me in please

  64. stephanie macdonald

    thanks for the chance


    This is for me. SEND IT.

  66. Stephanie Liske

    Pick Me.

Comments are closed.