A: Various kinds and a lot more than actually gets written into the book. I like to have a good background of what I'm writing about but I only use enough to make my stories seem plausible.
First, I visit the places I'm writing about. For the most part, everything I write about takes place in my neck of the woods -- even on our farm. (Why, oh why didn't I think to set my series in some exotic locale? Then travel to said locale could be a tax write-off.)
But my travels are local -- to a tent revival (but not to a snake-handling church,) to the River Art District in Asheville, the casino in Cherokee, a Civil War era house in nearby Marshall, one of the few remaining drover's stands in Fairview, the Vance birthplace for a look at the clothing and house furnishings of times past. . .
For the forthcoming Under the Skin I took a thirty minute drive to Hot Springs and the Mountain Magnolia Inn, as well as the Hot Springs Spa. It really helps me to be in a place and get the feel of it before I write about it.
For Old Wounds and for The Day of Small Things, I spent some time in Cherokee, at the Museum and at a Southeastern tribes dance festival, talking to folks and buying some useful books for research.
I also occasionally have helpful readers who share pictures and diaries -- like Inez and Odessa's diaries that really gave me a picture of life around here in the Thirties and Forties.
There are also a number of helpful friends and acquaintances who will answer my questions -- several physicians and psychologists, a pharmacist, our local dentist (a good friend and the original of Doc Adams in Signs in the Blood and in Old Wounds) and my friend Kathy, the realtor who inspired Sallie Kate. Mechanics, lawyers, journalists, farm agents, law men -- I've got a little list.
I've found that folks are incredibly generous with their time and expertise when you say the magic words, "I'm working on a book and need to know..."
And there are folks around I can talk to and hear their memories. I have. too, my own memories of the old folks I knew thirty years ago and the things they told me about growing up in the mountains.
Really, most of my thirty-some years here in the mountains amounts to research. I just didn't know at the time that I'd eventually be writing about it. I've used my experience on jury duty, things I overheard in the laundromat, the time I got a concealed carry permit, and lots more that I'll use eventually.
One thing I do at the beginning of each novel is to visit our county library (and sometimes the much larger library in Asheville) and skim through the newspapers of the time period I'll be writing about. The advertisements, as much as anything, give me a feel for the time, whether it's Little Sylvie's 1901 trip to Ransom where she talks about the things she sees in the store windows, or Red Bird's favorite nail polish or her trip to the S and S Cafeteria with Luther in the Thirties.
I've also accumulated a nice little library of Appalachian related books and I list the ones that have been most helpful in the acknowledgment pages of each book. Sometimes just the pictures are enough to give me a feel for the period.
And there's Mr. Google -- almost anything I might want to know is there, including primary sources.
Between the world outside my door and the world of the Internet, plus a pretty lively imagination, I can set the scene fairly well. Because I'm not writing history, and since I made Marshall County a fictional place (albeit based on a real one,) I have a little leeway. I'm not aiming for infallible accuracy -- just a reasonable verisimilitude.