In high school, I hated Ohio and American history. I didn't want to memorize the dates of battles, the names of generals, the placement of Ohio's 88 counties and their county seats. In college, I avoided taking a history course of any sort. But after graduate school, historical fiction, biographies, and memoirs ignited my interest. I find social history, and the civilian parallels to military history, fascinating. Thus, I am more interested in sex during the Civil War than in mapping troop movements at Gettysburg, what was happening in medicine and sources of corruption than who was in charge of which part of the armies. Thus my story for Virginia Is For Mysteries, "Death Comes to Hollywood Cemetery" was born, with the amateur detective being Clara, a good-natured prostitute who specialized in serving men with benign fetishes in and around Richmond during the Civil War.
I enjoyed writing Clara, and readers seemed to enjoy the story, so for Virginia is for Mysteries, Volume II, I decided to take Clara from Richmond to the West. But why Nimrod Hall? For one thing, it's historic, the property established as a farm in 1783. For another, I've enjoyed summer writing workshops at the modern (but rustic) Nimrod Hall of today for more than 10 years. It still stands near the Cowpasture River, and has the original fieldstone fireplace.
I'm familiar with Bath County, Millboro and Millboro Springs, and Warm Springs. In addition, the Bath County Historical Society is the baby of Richard L. Armstrong, the man who wrote a booklet titled, The Civil War in Bath County, Virginia. He was very helpful and willingly shared his thoughts. If you are ever in Warm Springs, stop by—and then enjoy the waters at what are now called the Jefferson Pools.
Ultimately, I was able to weave local war history and the names of its actors with the Civil War railroad system, the history of Nimrod Hall and its public scandals into a story in which Clara arrives at the farm to become enmeshed in murder and intrigue that never happened—but could have!
ivian Lawry is a founding member of the Central Virginia Chapter of Sisters in Crime and served two terms as chapter president. She writes mysteries, historical fiction, magical realism, and memoir-based prose. Nettie’s Books was a finalist in the Best Unpublished Novel Contest sponsored by James River Writers and Richmond Magazine. Her short stories have appeared in more than four dozen literary journals and anthologies, from The Alembic to Xavier Review to Virginia is for Mysteries. She coauthored two Chesapeake Bay Mysteries, Dark Harbor and Tiger Heart. Her most recent book, Different Drummer, is a collection of offbeat fiction. Vivian collects carved wooden Santa’s, dictionaries, and Depression glass. She lives and writes near Richmond, Virginia. Visit Vivian on Facebook and read her blogs at vivianlawry.com.