Behind the Book

Pictures from my research on Braving Strange Waters.


Here’s a picture of me outside the Belle of Louisville. My husband and I went on a river cruise as part of my research on steamboats for the Mercy Series. I drew on a lot of my previous research in writing Braving Strange Waters while refreshing my memory and doing some more in-depth research about the steamboat Arabia in particular. 


The idea for this novel originated while I was on this cruise with friends. For more on where the idea came from, check out the author note in the back of the book. 


Now this is a fun way to research! Here I am on the top deck, where a lot of action happens in Braving Strange Waters. (Btw, I have since found the perfect pair of sunglasses that fit over my glasses. I look way cooler now. Haha!)

slave cabin

This cruise was to Mexico, not Hawaii. I had to play around with where the girls would go on their cruise. It had to be long enough and have enough days at sea for everything to happen. I chose a long, 15-day cruise that took off from Stella’s hometown of Seattle. Lots of sea days. 

slave cabin

Stella, Wendy, and Claire may not be much for games on cruises, but I sure am! My friends and I spent much of our days at sea playing board games. 

slave cabin

Here I am putting a copy of my novel Mercy Will Follow Me in the cruiseboat library. Wendy spends a lot of time in this library. It’s where she meets Grayson. 

The Missouri History Museum has a great display of what the docks in St. Louis would have looked like in the 1800s. Here’s what the deckhands or roustabouts would have looked like when Stella went back in time. 

It was hot, hard work.

Roustabouts loaded barrels, crates, and sacks. 

slave cabin

Here’s what the barrels would have looked like. 

Here’s an example of crates. They could be of differing sizes. What might have been hidden within? 

Stella’s view when they docked in St. Louis. 

Prince Winyah Church

A lot of my research came from a visit to The Arabia Steamboat Museum in Kansas City, MO.  If you’ve read the book, you know about this gem of a museum. If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a visit. 

Prince Winyah Church

A Frozen Charlotte doll. Did you know about these before reading Braving Strange Waters?

Me in front of the wheel. The Arabia was a side-wheel packet boat.  

Take a look at these earrings.

Coffee = a necessity for every generation. 

One thing that surprises many people is that the cargo found on board the Arabia, bound for the Western frontier, was of fine quality. Not everyone was “roughing it” in the way we might think. 

Anyone want a box of Segars?

Another barrell. 

slave chapel

Here’s what Stella’s key might have looked like. 

mansfield plantation

Writing pens!


Clay pipes

trunk dock


trunk dock

Pill boxes

trunk dock

Lice combs and toothbrushes. All you need now to brush your teeth is some horse hair. 

rice fields

Looking mighty dapper. 

More fine clothing.

A model of the Arabia. 

A different view.

The parts of a steamboat.

A menu from a different steamboat. I took the food selections in the novel from a couple of different authentic historical menus. 

When Stella first visits the lower deck, she’s surprised to see people sleeping out in the open. 

Included this just because I found it interesting.

A map of where the cargo was on the boat when it sank. Wendy sees this picture and knows she needs to warn Stella.  

slave pen

That’s a lot of cargo!

Many thanks to the staff at The Arabia Steamboat Museum and to the Steamship Historical Society of America for answering my numerous questions.