Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Setting of Love in Three-Quarter Time

 by Dina Sleiman

Stories come to authors in all different forms. The impetus for my new novel first came from my agent who asked me to write a historical romance novel set in America during the 19th century. From there we narrowed down the setting to Virginia or Pennsylvania, the two states I know the most about. Then after several weeks of prayer, the initial idea came to me in the form of the title, Love in Three-Quarter Time. So I knew it would have something to do with the waltz.

Regency Era Waltz
I wanted it to take place when the waltz first came to America. However, I could only find absolute documentation that the waltz was officially accepted in England in 1816, when it was included in a ball given by the Prince Regent, and that it was well established in America by 1830. From there I chose 1817, figuring some daring Americans probably tried shortly after their British counterparts. And by choosing this time, I was able to give my book that popular Regency flavor.

Next I needed a place for my story. It seemed that it should start in Richmond and move to a gorgeous Southern plantation home nearer the frontier. So I created the fictional White Willow Hall just off the famous Three Notch'd Road which ran through Charlottesville, Virginia. I decided my plantation would be set in rolling hills with a weeping willow, lots of flowers, and a small pond out front. For the architecture, I thought my Beaumont family might have chosen something similar to the nearby Monticello. Oh! And I would include a few scenes at Monticello for an added historical touch.

So I went about writing my book, mostly from my imagination and my memories of Charlottesville. I did some online research. But it wasn't until I had already completed the first draft that I had an opportunity to visit Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It was quite a feat to figure out where Three Notch'd Road ran today, but with the help of the ladies at the Monticello gift shop, I finally did. Then of course it was farther than expected, and I was running out of gas, and my GPS kept taking me to old country gas stations that weren't open.... Suffice to say, it was the next afternoon before I skipped out on the festival and managed to explore Three Notch'd Road west of the town.

Dina at Birdwood Pavilion (Now a Conference Center) on Three Notch'd Road
And it was so worth it!!!! I found a plantation about 3 miles west of town, right where it needed to be, that fit my description almost precisely. The willow and pond were more to the right side than in front. The house did not have a rotunda, but the size, red brick, white pillars, and verandas all matched! You can't tell in the picture, but there are about two sets of rolling hills between me and the house. The plantation would have existed at the time of my story, although the house was built a few years later. I was so excited that I went back after the festival with my travel companion, author Christy Barritt, to snap some pictures.

Garden Pavilion at Monticello
But don't forget those few scenes at Monticello as well. I had actually found great online tours, photos, and videos. So there weren't too many surprises for me. I was, however, oddly shocked that it sat on top of the only mountain in the area. Duh! Thus the name. But I didn't realize there were any mountains that far east. My favorite place at Monticello was a spot where I had already set a pivotal scene. This lovely little garden pavilion where Constance and Robbie shared a passionate kiss for the first time in five years.

I had so much fun with the setting of this story. I hope you'll enjoy it too! Look for Love in Three-Quarter Time coming with Zondervan First October 23rd 2012.

What's your favorite historical time and place? Do you enjoy Southern plantations and old mansions? If you could set a book anywhere, where would you choose?

Dina Sleiman writes lyrical stories that dance with light. Most of the time you will find this Virginia Beach resident reading, biking, dancing, or hanging out with her husband and three children, preferably at the oceanfront. Since finishing her Professional Writing MA in 1994, she has enjoyed many opportunities to teach literature, writing, and the arts. She was the Overall Winner in the 2009 Touched by Love contest for unpublished authors. Her debut novel, Dance of the Dandelion with Whitefire Publishing, is now available at amazon and other online and ebook distributors. Her latest novel, Love in Three Quarter Time, will be the launch title for the new Zondervan First imprint. Dina is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. She has recently become an acquisitions editor for WhiteFire as well. Join her as she discovers the unforced rhythms of grace. For more info visit her at http://dinasleiman.com/


  1. The pictures are so lovely, Dina. I love going to the different places where I set my novels. It's so fun to do research and it really helps me draw upon the sensory images I experienced.

    Great post, and I can't wait to hold that book in my hand.

  2. Well, it will probably be the ebook :) I hear the print prices will be a little steep.

  3. I should slap myself in the head and say, "duh". Dina, I knew that - don't know what I was thinking. I can't wait to have the book downloaded into my Nook. ;-)

  4. I remember your excitement when you traveled and found the setting of your book! What a great feeling. I definitely love Southern mansions and your setting/time is wonderful!

    I hope to move around the 19th century a bit but I doubt I'll ever have need to leave the east coast/north east or the UK as settings. There are so many amazing writers who do the prairie and the west so well that I'm happy to read them and stick to my UK settings.

    As I told you Dina, I've been obsessing about visiting the UK lately. Maybe it's the olympics or the fact that my knees are starting to bother me but I don't want to wait too much longer to go to England, Scotland and Wales. There's just so much you can do with the internet -- nothing beats seeing your setting in person!

    Loved the photos again. I made it to Mt Vernon but never to Monticello. Must make a point of visiting.

    Where will your next book take place?

    PS - looking forward to Roseanna's Savannah book!

  5. You should go to the UK, Deb! I was in England the summer I turned twenty. Loved it.

    Hopefully my next book will be the sequel. If I have my way I'll do a trilogy and use another famous home in each one, but all within a day's drive of Charlottesville.

  6. What a cool trip you got to make for research! Thank you for sharing your pictures and I will definitely be looking for your newest book :)

    Right now I'm really into WWI era stuff maybe partially because of the Downton Abbey fever lol :)

  7. Faye, most of the books I've read this summer were set between 1895 and 1920. Heiress was my favorite so far.


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