The Powerful Influence of Old Homes On My Work–Beth Trissel


My fascination with old homes and plantations, a theme that figures regularly in much of my writing, is partly inspired by my father’s family home place, circa 1816, located outside the historic town of Staunton, Virginia in the lovely Shenandoah Valley.  *Note I did an earlier post on Staunton.

Called Chapel Hill (old homes invariably have names) this Georgian style brick house has been in the family for eight generations.  Sadly, the old kitchen, a separate building from the main house, no longer stands but I remember it from my childhood. Some outbuildings still remain, among them the smokehouse and stable.  The house itself is filled with a wonderful collection of heirlooms.  The miniature china dogs I played with as a child turn up in my Revolutionary War adventure romance novel Enemy of the King.

My ghostly, light paranormal romance novella, Somewhere the Bells Ring, is set at Chapel Hill at Christmas, the season I remember best there. Although I also visited at many other times of the year.

The home in my light paranormal romance novel Somewhere My Love is a compilation of Berkeley and Shirley plantations with flavors of Chapel Hill, and lord only knows what else considering all the old  homes I’ve toured or lived in over the years.  The curved staircases I favor in my novels are replicas of the one at Chapel Hill that winds from the foyer in the front hall up to the second floor.

As a child, I’d anxiously wander up and down those stairs in the moonlight in my white nightgown, no doubt looking like a ghost girl, because I wanted to be with my parents asleep downstairs, but hated to admit it during the day when my cousins were about.  So, I’d be tucked in with them upstairs, far from asleep, and worries of the night would settle in.  Then I’d wandered the steps until I finally made a bolt for mom and dad, feeling quite foolish in the bright sunshine of morning with birds singing.  However, nighttime in that house was quite another matter.

*Image of stairs in far hall

The ‘snake thing’ in Chapter One of Enemy of the King is drawn from an incident that happened to me at Chapel Hill when I was a girl during my night wanderings.  Back in my contest circuit days, more than one judge told me a snake couldn’t possibly get into a house and wind around the antlers of a buck mounted up on the wall.  They can and one did; a rather horrifying discovery for a child to make in the wee hours.  And then there’s the fact that I always suspected the house was haunted…not sure by whom.  But I’m not entirely certain I was alone on those stairs, though whoever kept me company was benign.

To clarify, I do not live at Chapel Hill.  My aunt does, but it’s not far from where my husband and I live on the family farm in nearby Rockingham County

My time travel romance Somewhere My Lass opens in an old Victorian home in the historic town of Staunton, (mentioned above).  I also love homes of the Victorian era.   Our farm-house dates back into the 1800’s. Old homes from the nineteenth or eighteenth centuries (and beyond) have character, charm, mystery, and sometimes…ghosts.   Beneath the staircase at Chapel Hill is a deep closet, long rumored to be the site of a secret passage now closed from view.  Whether any truth exists to this family legend I do not know and apart from tearing out the back of the recessed closet can’t think how else to make this determination.  But I assure you, there’s a secret passage in the story I set there.

The Joshua Wilton house in Harrisonburg VA is a beautifully restored Victorian home operating as an Inn and Restaurant.  They also serve tea in the afternoons if visitors wish to come only for that lovely occasion. (*Pictured above)

For more on the Joshua Wilton house visit: http://joshuawilton.com/

Shirley Plantation and Berkeley Plantation homes pictured in that order.

Chapel Hill is pictured first in color and then black and white.

12 responses to “The Powerful Influence of Old Homes On My Work–Beth Trissel

  1. The photographs are amazing and your story sounds intriguing! I also have written a story that takes place in a Victorian mansion off the coast of Washington State… There is just something about those old houses that beckons our imaginations, isn’t there.

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  2. Those are beautiful. I love older homes they have so much character. We have so many neat older homes in our town. Love just driving around to look at them. I guess some them are haunted too being so old. They have like a parade of homes which I haven’t got to go on yet but; might try it this year. Would love to see some of insides of these pretty homes.
    Sue B

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  3. I love old houses, especially those in the Historic Register. I lived in a house built in 1773. When I lived in Maryland for about a year in the days of cheap gas my wife and I would drive around the countryside looking for historic mansion. We found one that had a plaque saying it was the location of a military ball during the Civil War. Another house looked exactly like the house in the original Dark Shadows series from the outside. Every time we drove by I could see scenes from the show and hear Lara’s theme in my mind. Dark Shadows was in first run at the time. I would stay an extra thirty minutes at work everyday in the lounge just to watch it.

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  4. Oh such beautiful homes. I also love old homes and the Victorian era. I often use them in my stories. I’m not as fortunate as you to have one in the family. What a joy that must be to visit.

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  5. I have been inspired by old homes, too. I haven’t lived in any, but I visited lots of them. That’s one of my favorite things to do.

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  6. Loved the photography, great post! I completely feel the same way. Thanks for sharing.

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