The Whole Kit and Caboodle: Sears Kit Homes, and My Unfortunate Tendency to Get Caught Up in Research

 A Rave About Writing

I love learning new things. This characteristic has worked to my advantage throughout my career as a librarian by ensuring I remain fascinated with the day-to-day duties of the job.  The attribute has been equally helpful in my writing.

Unfortunately, just as my fictional characters’ negative traits are mirrored by their positive qualities, my virtue — curiosity — has its own lamentable flip side.

To put it bluntly: I get carried away.

In my first book, I created a character who would only wear Converse All-Star tennis shoes (on her feet, my internal editor insists I insert here. She would wear only Converse All-Stars on her feet! She also wore clothing.).

Somehow — and I take no credit for it — I ended up with multiple pairs of the shoes. (In my defense, my daughter handed down at least one pair, and I only shop clearance, so it wasn’t quite as excessive as it sounds.) I discovered that for a mere $60 (and up) you can actually design your own customized Chucks.

Who knew?

Well, I did, because of all the aforementioned research. And, no, I didn’t buy a pair, although I will admit to spending time fooling around with the design program. Here, give it a try.
http://www.converse.com/#/products/shoes/converseOne/scratch/all

For the record, mine was a red classic low-cut pair featuring red and black buffalo checks on the inside, and a black tongue and laces. What about yours?

My third book, Myth Conception, is — as you’ve probably guessed from the title — based on Greek mythology. Specifically Artemis. She is, as you know, the Greek goddess of the hunt. But I had a fabulous time finding all (okay, some) of the many other things she’s associated with. Lop-eared hounds, stags, chastity and, strangely enough, childbirth and laboring women.

I’ll warn you though, Artemis didn’t have what we might call a forgiving nature. She once turned this guy, Actaeon, into a stag for accidentally coming across her as she bathed.
His own hounds ate him.

Clearly, Artemis wasn’t someone to mess with, which made it all the more fun when I did. In my version of her story, she gets, as my mom used to say, hoist by her own petard.

Does anyone even know what that expression means?

Excuse me while I look it up.

Ah, yes, here it is. According to http://www.phrases.org.uk, being hoist by your own petard is something like being shot by your own weapon. According the them, Shakespeare gave the line to Hamlet in 1602: “For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.”

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hoist%20by%20your%20own%20petard.html if you’d like to learn more.

See what I mean? Research — it gets me every time.

My most recent walk through the halls of mostly useless knowledge was actually a repeat visit involving the history of Sears Kit Homes. I first learned of the company’s fascinating (at least to me) foray into architecture quite by accident when a former co-worker mentioned she and her husband had bought a kit house in Cleveland Heights.

“Pre-fabricated?” I asked, thinking “A double-wide in Cleveland Heights?”

“No,” said she, “a Sears Kit Home,” and then went on to explain how back in the early half of the 20th century, Sears sold kit homes that customers bought and assembled themselves. I was momentarily fascinated, but the fact eventually sifted back to wherever such trivialities go to hide.

English: "The Alhambra" (Model No. 2...

English: “The Alhambra” (Model No. 2090) Sears Catalog Home appearing in the 1919 Sears Roebuck Catalog. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, one day, in the midst of my second book, Ready or Not, it suddenly dawned on me that my hero, Liz Jones, lived in a Sears Kit Home.

Don’t ask how I knew. Sometimes it just happens that way.

Needless to say, endless research went into deciding just which model (and there were many) she had the good fortune to purchase. For the record, it was the Columbine, pictured below (image from http://www.arts-crafts.com/archive/sears/page80.html). Liz just couldn’t wait to hang a swing on that front porch.

from http://www.arts-crafts.com/archive/sears/page80.html

Columbine Sears Kit Home

Fast forward another few years to my fourth book and current work in progress, Believe It or Not. My hero, Jake Tolliver, a cohort of Liz and her husband, is also fascinated with kit homes.

I feel a field trip to Cleveland Heights coming on.

On a more positive note, perhaps my fascination with such details serves a purpose. It certainly draws me more into my characters’ world. And isn’t that part of what writing is all about?

If you’re interested in learning more about Sears (and other) Kit Homes, I recommend you take a look at some of the following websites.

http://www.chhistory.org/FeatureStories.php?Story=SearsCatalogHomes — Information on the ones in Cleveland Heights

http://www.searshomes.org/index.php/about-sears-homes/ — An overview of the history of Sears Kit Homes

http://www-tc.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/static/media/transcripts/2011-03-28/102_sears.pdf — Transcript of a “History Detectives” segment tracing the history of some houses in Akron. Are they Sears Kit Homes? Or not?

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About kymlucas

"Taking care not to take love too seriously." Writer of smart, fresh, contemporary romance and women's fiction. Blogging about writing, reading, and more recently, dealing with the ins and outs of breast cancer.
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6 Responses to The Whole Kit and Caboodle: Sears Kit Homes, and My Unfortunate Tendency to Get Caught Up in Research

  1. Kristen says:

    Ahh research. I love your rave for today (yesterday) and totally relate. I do it with shopping on the web, too — if i need a coat, i soon know about the materials in coats, where they are made, how they are made, all sorts of extraneous information! But I buy a damn good coat.For a good price.

    Like

  2. Sam Byrd says:

    Mom used to say, “hoist by her own petard”? Where was I when you guys talked like that…oh…maybe outside playing in the dirt or snow.

    Like

  3. Threec says:

    I did quite a bit of research back when I wrote a screenplay set in the world of minor league baseball. It can get dangerously addictive.

    Like

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