Kingsolver’s ‘perfect’ setting: ’40s Asheville

In addition to Mexico, why did you choose Asheville, North Carolina as a main location for this story?

“In the early months as I laid out the plot, I cast around for a setting for the U.S. portion of my story: a medium-sized city within a day’s drive of Washington, whose history I could research thoroughly.  My character would live there throughout the 1940s, so it would be ideal for me to find a city that had preserved a lot of architecture from that era, both public and private.  I would love to find intact neighborhoods, downtown blocks, grand old resorts, preserved WPA road systems and parks, all kinds of places where I could walk around and visualize my setting down to its finest details.  Asheville was perfect, just a couple of hours from where I live.

“Because it’s an old resort town, its history is very well documented in words and pictures.  The city’s unique story became its own contribution to the novel.  I discovered, for example, that in the summer of 1948 Asheville had the worst polio epidemic in the nation, putting the whole town under quarantine.  I learned this during my research and it became a key plot element, creating a perfect, claustrophobic backdrop to the suspenseful narrowing down of choices for my protagonist.  I love this fantastic synergy between discovery and creation, in writing historical fiction.  It feels like magic.”

— From an interview with Barbara Kingsolver about her historical novel “The Lacuna.”