I thought I’d share some of the pictures from my three day research trip to Beaufort, North Carolina and tell you the slightly spooky thing that happened to me while I was there. My character, twenty-two-year-old Robin, lives in Beaufort and I wanted to learn more about her everyday life. Robin manages a bed and breakfast which I plan to model after one of the beautiful old historical houses that are all over town. Hers will be similar to the one at the left. The houses are nearly all white, and between the blue sky and the blue water of the wide creek that fronts Beaufort, they really make a beautiful sight.
I actually stayed in a bed and breakfast called the Pecan Tree Inn and it was fun to imagine Robin in the role of the owner, Dave, answering touristy type questions, baking muffins for breakfast, and being a caring and genial host. I stayed in the Queen Ann room, with its private porch and jacuzzi room. Lovely! Since I was alone, I couldn’t easily take a picture of me propped up in bed working, so you just have to imagine me in this bed, the big blue manuscript on my lap, revising the first sloppy draft of this still nameless book.
One of the attractions in Beaufort is the old burial ground. I knew Robin’s B and B guests would be asking her lots of questions about it, so I wanted to pay the graveyard a visit. Many of the graves dates back to the 1700s and they’re nestled here and there between the twisted trunks and branches of live oaks. It’s a beautiful, and at the same time chilling, experience to walk through the grounds.
Certainly the most famous grave–and one that I realized would have special meaning for Robin–is that of a little girl buried in a rum keg. In the eighteenth century, the child’s father took her on an ocean voyage, promising his wife he’d return her home safely. But the little girl died during the trip and her father, unable to abandon her to a burial at sea, placed her in a keg of rum and brought her home to Beaufort. Her grave has become a place where people leave toys and shells in remembrance of her.
The next day I found this dock, which is perfect for the climax of the book. As soon as I saw this particular dock, it solved a little plot problem I’d been having. Never underestimate the value of a research trip!
On my last day, I spent a few hours walking around the beautiful water front. I imagined Robin visiting the fudge shop (which I had to actually visit twice, since the fudge I bought for John the first day had magically disappeared by the third), and the wonderful little bookstore (Rocking Chair Bookstore. I spent a loooong time talking with the owner, Kelli, who really helped me learn more about Robin’s daily life. And of course I bought a couple of gorgeous books about Beaufort). Most of the shops were closed for the winter, but I still enjoyed strolling along the waterfront, imagining I was inside Robin’s skin.
That last night, I decided to treat myself to a nice meal at the restaurant across the street from the Pecan Tree Inn. The Blue Moon Bistro was tiny and elegant . . . and crowded, but they found a table for me even though I didn’t have a reservation. I settled into my seat and the waitress came over to my table.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Robin.”
Totally freaked me out!
Of course I had to tell her why I’d suddenly lost my ability to speak. That was the spooky thing. Not the graveyard or the girl in a rum keg. Just a real-life Robin, sending a chill up my spine.
So now I’m back to work at my desk, still dreaming about Beaufort and so glad I made the effort to see the place where my characters will come together.