I thought I’d begin by saying a little about how this project got started. There were probably countless triggers, but two stand out in my mind. One was a comment from the wife of a cousin, who said, when I asked how we used to get through the hours of endless commencement ceremonies without our cellular devices for entertainment said, “We had active inner lives.” I got to thinking, “use it or lose it.” And I was afraid I’d lost the vivid imagination of my youth, which once kept me occupied by the hour, especially at night when I had trouble falling asleep.
Another impetus was a book a friend sent me called The Man Inside the Mountain. (I’m sorry I’ve forgotten the author’s name.) It is a post-Civil-War story set in the Appalachian mountains, and it launched a whirlwind of thought. I couldn’t stop chewing on it, especially the aspect of men coming home changed. . . . And that the world people knew would have been a very long time–if ever–returning to normal.
I’d always thought it would be great fun to write a novel, if only I had a story to write. Then a narrative began taking form like a fetus in me and wouldn’t leave me alone until I got it typed. That was a fun part. Then came revisions, editing, and a long search for someone to take an interest in Madam’s Creek. It got quite tiresome and discouraging. But I never lost faith in the story, which somewhere along the line took on a life of its own and made me feel I was telling a truth, not a fiction.
So maybe somewhere there was once a couple who had an experience like that of Marcus and Maylene. If so, I hope they are happy their tale has been told.
I can’t possibly thank all of you sufficiently who came out on the 11th, many bearing gifts of food and drink, and all bringing such warmth and support–I was overwhelmed by your generosity. I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart.
I’m never crazy about being in the spotlight, but you made it a cozy light, and got me over my nerves. I couldn’t live in a better community or have more dear, supportive friends. I am so grateful.
P.S. I think some of you hoped for a more historic tale of the early Madam’s Creek community. Mainly, I used Madam’s Creek as a setting, without delving much into its history. There was a Charlton Mill, and there certainly were floods, as there still are. The Baptist church was borrowed from the church near the bottom of Beech Run–I simply put a church where I wanted one to be. There’s no telling how many small log churches once existed. Like the old schoolhouses and mills, most are long gone. But we can be sure people gathered on Sunday mornings and used the New for baptisms. Some things haven’t changed. And we also know the Civil War called boys and men from farms throughout the area, tearing families and young lovers apart. Madam’s Creek would not have been spared.
Several people have asked me about a sequel. Normally, I’m not a huge fan of sequels, but I haven’t gotten some of these characters out of my system–they keep coming back and nudging me. So… yes, I’m working on a sequel. Wish me luck, y’all. I don’t want to botch it.
Still plugging away…. Tentative title is Broomstraw Ridge. The time frame is the 1870s. The railroad arrives, and a new town is born across the river from the mouth of Madam’s Creek. The landscape remains largely unchanged, but men are already being pulled from their farms to take railroad and mining jobs. The timber boom is yet to take off. But it’s inner changes and challenges, as always, that create the heart of story. What unexpected loss and rail delivery collide with the Lillys’ lives on the flank of Broomstraw Ridge?
I must be the world’s worst blogger. Broomstraw Ridge is at the publisher’s for thumbs up or down, and I’m holding my breath. I wasn’t sure I liked the story until it was finished and I read it–I do! Not that that means it’s a great or even a good story, but it and its characters felt real to me, which was a relief. When the players start telling their own tale, you get to relax and follow along. Once again, I got attached to the Lillys, etc., and I don’t like letting them go. But it’s time to move on.
(If the book gets published and you happen to read it, Hinton is a real town, born with the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s. It sits on a bench above New River, across from the mouth of Madam’s Creek. It did not exist at the time of the Civil War.)