The Value of Total Immersion Research

For many writers research is a dirty word. Especially if they have to research a time period they are not familiar with. For me, a historical author, research is the bones that hold my world together. The words I use to write my story are the muscles and skin that bring my story to life.  So I love research.

Recently I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Williamsburg, VA. Eight fabulous days in the heat and humidity, walking along the very same streets as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Lord De La Ware, and many more. One of my favorite days was when we learned about the economy. We were visited by John Greenhow, a local merchant and store owner in Williamsburg who explained how the credit system worked back then. Their credit system back then works like our debit/credit system. A particular amount of money was placed into your account and you could purchase items based on what you had in that account.  That doesn't mean you couldn't purchase items if you had no money in your account.  You could, but then you would pay it back once you sold items from your farm or shop. So even back in colonial times, their economy was similar to ours.  And just like ours, people were in debt and could not get out.

The apothecary

The brickmaker

The cabinetmaker

The Coffee Shop

The Gunsmith

The blacksmith

John Greenhow - the store owner

The magazine operator

The Milliner

The printer

The silversmith

The wheelwright

The wigs and peruke maker

So many tiny details were made available during my visit to each shop.  My favorite was the printers because in my latest story, the heroine operates her father's printing press after he dies. Being able to see how the press works and know she would be able to operate it on her own was important information I could not learn just by looking up printing presses.  Interviewing the printer about the process was like traveling back in time to the 1700s and seeing it done firsthand. Knowledge like this cannot be found by reading a book.  Seeing a pamphlet being made and actually handling type made me understand the importance of research like this.  

I think it's time I travel to England now.  After all total immersion research is necessary.  See you back in the 21st century.

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