The author has to think about everything that a person experiences. Food, clothing, housing, technology, and transportation are visible parts of life that change over time. But there are plenty of aspects that are not so visible--such as political, moral, and religious beliefs. Sleeping, hygiene, and health behaviors. Attitudes toward marriage, children, work, humor and recreation, social class, education, ethnic groups, and women.
The research for Whisper Falls began six years ago when I visited Tryon Palace in New Bern. (I love that place. I've been back two times since, each time focusing on a different aspect of colonial life.) The docents were extremely knowledgeable and happy to share what they knew.
When I asked about servants, one of the docents/reenactors told me that little is known about the servant class. Most servants didn't know how to write, and the ones who did would've had a hard time affording ink and paper. Bottom line: a writer can interpret what it might have been like and it would be hard to dispute.
Cool. The pressure was reduced somewhat. But, still, servants worked for wealthy people--so I had to learn about both. My research efforts included:
- Visits to the NC State Archives, NC History Museum, Mount Vernon Estate and Grist Mill, Tryon Palace, Carlyle House, Monticello, Bennett Place, Joel Lane House, and Claude Moore Colonial Farm
- Reading letters, journals, inventories, cookbooks, and newspapers from the period
- Reviewing historical blogs, scholarly works, old maps, and history tomes
- Exchanging email with experts (such as a grist mill association)
- Attending workshops on history; attending a colonial fashion show (where I was able to view up-close-and-personal some 18th century undergarments)
- Preparing 18th century recipes (tasting mandatory)
I also read historical fiction that targeted the same period, although this is a tricky thing to count on. There is no guarantee that the history is correct.
All these efforts may seem like overkill--but I don't mind. I love the research. It's just pure fun for me.