I'd never done research for a story before this one. I was always a big believer in the idea that you could imagine anything, but it became clear very quickly that I couldn't imagine the names of the trees in Madagascar or the kinds of crops Malagasy farmers grew. What was incredible for me was to feel how deeply the pictures I found through my online research affected me; working with words, it can be easy to forget how much we rely on sight.
As fate would have it, I developed an allergy to my contacts right as I started revisions on this story and had to start wearing glasses 24/7 for the first time. Like anything I try to pretend isn't there, my vanity pressed right down onto the fiction; Nick's a myopic character, and the idea that blindness might work thematically in this story in more ways than one made sense.
In the end, I felt like maybe I'd been partly right: you can't imagine all the physical details of anyone's life or home, but I do think that the bigger things—the fears and anxieties, the dreams and neuroses—are common property. Writing is nothing if not an act of borrowing what's in plain view.