I walked the streets of Cambridge looking for locations, the perfect house, the classrooms where Cox and Bryers taught, Emily's church, First Parish in Cambridge where my mother had been a member, the supplier in Inman Square where Mrs. Stevens bought food to feed the boarders. Even the house where the villain lived.
In one short story, Emily, at age 14, goes with her father to visit the very real Thomas Wentworth Higginson. So of course I had to trek off to find the house that he had lived in at the time.
After I had finished a draft of what I called Emily in Cambridge, or EIC for short, I started a group of short stories set in Washington before 1890 where she and her husband Charles set up the original agency. My plan was to write novels about Cambridge and short stories about Washington. The best laid plans…
I had chosen a location for the house she and Charles lived in, a site for the office, their favorite restaurant. As I was looking for a home for one of the clients I realized that, unlike the Cambridge locations, every one of the Washington buildings had been torn down and replaced. Only the Smithsonian Castle had survived the urban renewal. While I could photograph all the Cambridge sites, I couldn't do the same in Washington. Since I realized this, I have been consciously making sure few of the sites still exist. The short story that is coming out in Day of the Dark, about the 1874 partial eclipse happens on a farm that is now a hotel in the middle of Bethesda. Their church, now All Souls on 16th and Harvard, was in two other locations, one is now a Dunkin Donuts, or was when I last looked.
I have often wanted to do a walking tour of the Cambridge sites, easy enough and fairly close together. Not so easy for Washington. "Here is the Dunkin Donuts where Emily and Charles attended church. Here is L'Enfant Plaza, their old house is over there under that parking garage.
I have often wondered if my concept of each of the two cities, one based on historical reality, and the other on pure fiction, shows up in the writing.