History Close to Home by Susan R. Hughes

music box set finalThe first three books in my Music Box Series are now available as a boxed set! In this series, a music box brings three generations of couples together, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1923 to Vancouver, B.C., in 1957. One reviewer said: “I treasure a story that weaves a tale that lingers long after the last page has been turned and this talented author accomplishes just that.”

I find historical fiction enjoyable and rewarding to write, but delving into a different era from your own requires a good deal of research. The series begins with Sense of Touch, set in Halifax. I’ve only visited the east-coast port city a couple of times. Fortunately, there is a good deal of material available about Halifax at the time I was writing about because of the catastrophic explosion that took place there and served as the backdrop for my story.

Dad’s childhood home (painted by Grandpa), complete with outhouse in the back.

For the second and third books, I relied much more on my parents for research, pestering them relentlessly with questions about their childhoods. I set Someone Like You in 1947 and used the tiny house in the outskirts of Ottawa, Ontario, where my dad grew up as the model for the Walker house. The house was near a popular park and beach that we visited regularly when I was a kid in the 1970s, although by then it had been renovated beyond recognition. Interviewing Dad, I learned much more about his childhood than I’d ever known. What it was like living without plumbing and travelling by streetcar? How was the city I grew up in different in the decades before I was born? I used some of his reminiscences in the book.

I set Heart’s Desire in the west-coast city of Vancouver in 1957, using the affluent neighbourhood where my mother grew up as the setting. When I was a kid, every couple of years my family would drive across Canada to Vancouver to visit my grandmother. I have many fond memories of the lush gardens, the beach with breathtaking mountains rising across the bay, and the world-renowned Stanley Park as one of our regular haunts. Mom told me about clothing, music, cars, and attitudes of the 1950s. In the story I recreated the diner she frequented with her friends (changing the name slightly) and even included her childhood dog.

The next volume in the series, soon to be released, is set in the 1970s. It’s much easier for me to write about this era, as I have plenty of my own memories from that time. I was too young to pay attention to politics or world affairs, but I do remember some of the trends, fashions and music. (Find out when it’s available by signing up for our newsletter!)

Little touches of reality bring the stories alive for me, and I hope the same is true for my readers.

19 thoughts on “History Close to Home by Susan R. Hughes

  1. The picture of the house above greatly resembles some of the older homes in our area. Since our area was inhabited by immigrants from the Trois-Rivières area in Canada, it stands to reason. French is still spoken in our area, but is dying out as time goes by. Early morning radio news is still spoken in French. When I visited the Quebec area, I fell in love with the countryside and the humor of the people living there.

    If you haven’t read Susan’s books as yet, grab this trilogy. Her writing is excellent. Unlike some books, you will remember the storyline and the characters long after you finish reading. Not many authors can do that for me. Plus her research is spot on…bringing back memories of growing up in a different time. Wonderful!


  2. Susan, what an enchanting series! Looking forward to reading the boxed set and the next installment from one of my all time favorite decades – the 70’s!


  3. Reblogged this on Kelly Rae & Jocelyn Bell Books and commented:

    Take a step back in time with Susan R. Hughes’, The Music Box Series. I enjoyed reading the books not only because of the exceptional stories, but because it was fun to learn about a different era and country, than my own.

    Susan is an exceptional writer; take a look at her post and consider purchasing this great set, to add to your summer reading list.


  4. I wish I could step back in time and take a tour. My grandmother’s house in Vancouver was sold and knocked down after she died, but I was there so often that I remember every detail of the place, even how it smelled.


  5. That house style is still seen. Very function for a family. Amazing that now days houses are huge. My youngest daughter and her family of 6 have a house that is over 3500 sq feet of living space! I have seen the house my husband’s family had when he was little and I am blown away that a family of 8 lived in something so small.
    I love series books! Thanks for sharing with us. And your grandfather was a talented painter!


  6. Your grandpa’s painting is wonderful. The house brings back many memories from my childhood. I can’t wait to read your trilogy! As Pepper commented, you are a fantastic writer!


  7. Oh, how wonderful to see them boxed! Wishing you lots of sales. It’s a great collection of books and it’s fun to know how you garnered so many tidbits from your own family to write them.

    I got to see the house where my dad grew up. He just went up and knocked on the door and told them he wanted me to see the house. He took me upstairs and opened a closet, yanked on a somewhat hidden door and we went up to the widow’s walk. I can remember standing there and looking at Philadelphia, PA. He said as a boy he could clearly see the boats on the river. That’s all I remember of the house.

    What had been the farm road turned into a real road and eventually they widened the road and moved the house. Years later, it was slated for demolition and they widened the road some more! There’s nothing left of the farm. It’s all housing developments and shopping centers.


  8. I read this trilogy and enjoyed it tremendously. It’s interesting to learn how the author found her inspiration for the different settings. You did well, Susan, writing about places you and your parents loved.


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