Looking at the book as a fellow fiction writer, I was struck by how much research had to go into it. Anne needed to find out just what was where in 1867 Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill; how people dressed; what teaching methods were used for the dyslexic; and the details of fine tailoring, among other things. I could easily imagine her poring over books at the Virginia Historical Society or wandering through the Bottom with an old map to get her bearings, all before writing a word.
How different from the research I do for my fiction! My short stories, set primarily in the Turks and Caicos or fictional islands very like them, depend on details that are cultural rather than historical.
So instead of libraries, I frequent bars and local gathering spots like the domino game at Sandy Point. I listen to the talk: the stories, the way things are said, the connections among people. I go to island events, and when friends gather at my house, I ask about events I missed.
We sometimes talk about relationships, and a part of my mind sifts out differences from my American experiences. And from my questions, both asked and unasked, come the beginnings of short stories.
I don't take notes on the spot; this research isn't that calculated, and I am, after all, in a social engagement, not an interview. But nothing is lost in the wash of information and attitude and cadence of language.
I have been visiting and staying on North Caicos for 23 years now. You might say that each of my stories has required 23 years of research.