We receive questions regarding how and why we positioned the Nurseketeers Series in the 1970s. The answer is simple. We stayed with what we know. We went to nursing school in the 1970s so; it was easy to recall undergraduate education from our collective memory. Our recollections provided a foundation from which to build the Nurseketeers series. We had repeatedly heard from seasoned authors to write what you know. We took their advice when we wrote fiction.
The same rationale applied to a selection of settings. We wanted something familiar to us and that would resonate with the readers. We used Dallas because we both live in the metroplex. However, the college footprint and the location in Dallas are fictitious. We learned early in the writing of the Nurseketeers adventures that we needed to have a college layout that was something both of us could access visually and reference frequently while writing.
We found a diagram of a small college and used that as the blueprint. We changed all the building names and added a few buildings and features along the way. For example, in the real college, the gazebo on the top of the science building does not exist, but we needed a location for Frannie and Stephen to have an interaction that was both on campus and private. We continue to maintain this college blueprint and update it as changes or additions are needed. We house this diagram in Dropbox so that it is available to each of us. We needed to avoid story conflicts with a reality that could create confusion. No writer wants a reader to pause and say, “that doesn’t make sense.” We found a cemetery on a Dallas map in relative proximity to Love Field Airport and not too distant from Parkland Hospital. We made that the location for our imagined Crestmont University for the Nurseketeers to attend.
The dorm room suite was another diagram layout that we had to position collectively in our minds’ eyes. The green areas below are the two bedrooms of the suite; the orange is the shared bathroom, the gray represents closets or counter space, and the yellow is a sitting area where the four Nurseketeers lounge together. We took a significant creative license in building this dorm suite for the Nurseketeer World. Dorms in the ’70s often had one long hall with bedrooms on either side, like a hotel, with a bathroom and shower room at a midpoint along the hall of rooms. However, in the Nurseketeer World, we wanted the four suitemates to have a closer connection daily. We, therefore, designed a dorm setting that would allow those connections to evolve easily.
We held to reality whenever we used landmark names, such as Neiman Marcus or locations like the Kennedy Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, specifically to allow readers to connect directly with the location and relate to the story. However, a primary location in the storyline is the fictitious Rob Rory’s Steakhauz. The Steakhauz name is a combination of the owner’s names: Roberta and Rory. We explored various spellings of the label such as Steak House or Steakhouse, and ultimately agreed on the novel spelling of Steakhauz to convey our message.
This restaurant needed to be within walking distance of the college because Robin would work there and had no car or time to take a bus. Scenes in the series use Rob Rory’s as a backdrop throughout the series, so the menu needed to be in a price range that would allow college-age students to go there for celebrations and special dates and be appropriate for a nice business lunch or a special family dinner. This location had to be a restaurant and not a hamburger joint, because the wait staff needed to receive tips for quality service.
Time sequencing is important when writing fiction, particularly when writing with a partner. For example, if I were writing a scene taking place at Thanksgiving and Terri was writing about a Christmas scene, we need to be mindful of sequence. For instance, in the Thanksgiving scene, I could not write about something that Frannie would receive at Christmas since that experience and gift exchange would not have taken place at Thanksgiving. As co-authors, we continually need to check with each other on sequencing.
We plan, so everything happens when it needs to happen in the book. For example, there are scenes related to a sorority pledge week in “The Wake-Up Call” that were initially set in the fall semester. We moved them to the spring semester, then ultimately decided the scenes had to go back into the first semester of the book to flow properly. Changes of this type are part of the developmental editing process that is an integral part of writing fiction. Making changes affects other aspects of the story, so it is essential to identify the implications of a change throughout the book and edit to ensure that the story remains consistent.
One other concept that must be consistent involves the cultural elements in the plot. When writing historical fiction, it is essential to remain as close to reality as possible. In Against the World, Robin faces a glass ceiling issue in her workplace. However, the term glass ceiling was first coined in 1978 and popularized in 1986. We could not use it to describe what was happening to her in 1971. Although the Nurseketeers’ world is in close alignment with the reality of the 1970s, it is fiction. That allows us as authors to be creative with the nuance of the characters’ lives while ensuring that the story is believable.
We have fun creating a new world for the characters in the Nurseketeers Series and we value a collaborative approach to writing.
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