SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: First order of business — hearty congratulations to dear Reds Rhys Bowen, Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Julia Spencer-Fleming for being nominated for the Agatha Award, given by Malice Domestic. Kudos and huzzahs, ladies!
This week I'm living two novels at once. I'm doing the final copyedit of the page proofs of THE PRIME MINISTER'S SECRET AGENT, which has coincided with a trip to Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C., researching the next novel in the Maggie Hope series, THE FIRST LADY'S CONFIDANT.
Whenever it's at all possible, I love to travel to the places I write about, and walk the actual footsteps of the characters. Since THE FIRST LADY'S CONFIDANT takes place in D.C. and Virginia, during Winston Churchill's trip to North America just after Pearl Harbor, I'm visiting as many places as possible that he and his staff went.
One of those places is Christ Church in Arlington, Virginia, where Winston Churchill, President Roosevelt, and Mrs. Roosevelt all went to to commemorate World Day of Prayer for Peace on January 1, 1942.
As you can see, it was a beautiful day (although cold!). Christ Church is an Episcopalian Church and is also known as George Washington's church. It was finished in 1773 by James Wren in what's knows as the "Colonial style."
The door was open, and I was lucky enough to have the place to myself (along with the ghosts of history).
[Anyone looking at my photos would be perplexed, as I often take pictures of small details. I always take pictures of floors, imagining how shoes of the period would sound. (Those are my warm winter boots with rubber soles and wide treads, definitely not what Eleanor Roosevelt would have been wearing!) ]
The highlight of the visit was finding pew #59, George Washington's family pew, and also where the Prime Minister, President and First Lady sat.
Like Goldilocks, I tried all three seats, each marked with a silver plaque.
And, of course, I had to sit in Mr. Churchill's seat.
When I did, what a surprise! The poor P.M., although in one of the most respected seats in the church, had a view mostly blocked by one of the white columns.
I make no promises as to whether a scene in this church will actually be written, let alone make it into the book (although I'm thinking it will, along with Mr. Churchill complaining afterwards about the pillar). But I can promise you that it makes it all the more real to me — which I truly hope makes it all the more vivid to you, the reader.