Okay, M.P., it's time for us, as your classmates, to come clean about something.
We're in awe of you.
You are an archivist and historian. And a published author. Wow.
So, tell us about your cast of characters ... from your incredibly unique perspective ...
M.P. Barker: First of all, thank you. Second, one of the great things about working in an archives is that I have lots and lots of old photographs and book illustrations to browse through if I'm trying to get an idea for a character.
And I'm happy to show you some of the characters from A Difficult Boy. By the way, all these images are from the archives at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum and are used with permission.
Mr. Lyman is the meany that my two main characters, Ethan and Daniel, work for.
And here’s the lovely Mrs. Lyman.
This handsome Civil War veteran was my model for Silas, the Lymans’ oldest son.
Although not quite as plump as I imagine Lizzie, the Lyman’s dairymaid, to be, this gal has just the right twinkle in her eye:
The hardest characters to find were my two boys. I still haven’t found a Daniel that matches the one in my head (no offense to Marc Tauss, the artist who created the striking cover image for the book). As for Ethan, I found a couple of old photos that were sort of close, but not exactly right.
Then one day I was out with a couple of friends. (These, by the way, were the friends who made me write 5 pages a day until the book was finished, so they knew the story better than just about anyone else.)
We were at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA (an amazing museum—more great art in one small town than you’d ever imagine—and Williamstown is also the home of the famous summer theater where Christopher Reeve got his start).
This painting, Thomas Gainsborough’s "Elizabeth and Thomas Linley" just stopped me dead in my tracks. “Do you know who that is?” I said to my friends, who looked at me like “Well, duh, read the label.” When I told them it was Ethan, they just went “Whoa—yeah, that’s him!” Check out this link.
Want an idea of what kind of house the Lymans live in?
Here are links to a couple of historic houses that are similar:
The Seguine Mansion, Staten Island, NY
The Maxfield Inn, Naples, NY
The Alexander House, Springfield, MA (shown here being moved—this one is just around the corner from the museum where I work)
So, friends out there in the blogosphere, can you see why we're in awe of M.P.?