Friday, June 15, 2007

It's weird where writers get their ideas from. Some of the ideas I get for my books come from personal family stories, but some don't. And I love the way an entire book can come out of one small, seemingly insignificant detail.
For example: I have a cousin who has one blue eye and one brown eye. In my first book, I kept trying to think of a way for my main character to be able to recognize a man that she's only seen in a photograph from fifty years ago. Well, give him one blue eye and one brown eye and that's a sure fire way to recognize him!
In my fourth book, MISTY MOURNING, I wanted to write about everything I had learned about coal mining in West Virginia, since some of my ancestors were coal miners. That was a bit more broad sweeping of an idea, than say, a man with one blue eye and one brown eye. But the kernel of the idea actually came from a story that my mother's mother had told me about the KKK burning a cross in their front yard during the twenties. Not because of any racial reasons, but because, evidently, my step-great grandfather was beating his wife. Somehow, I knew as a kid when I first heard the story, that it was the stuff of legend! And I used it is the thing that made me think of the story for MISTY MOURNING.
One day when I lived in this very, very tiny place called Sulpher Springs, a neighbor pointed to a spot in the river and said, "Right there's where that paddleboat went down about 1919. You can see it when the river's down." Eureka! Book number six! And I've spoken on my blog about how at least fifteen years ago, I found one of those old picture postcards at an antique mall and all it said (other than who it was addressed to) was, "I think you have forgotten your promise."
That was the birth of book number eight, THICKER THAN WATER.
My next book (the one to come out in spring of 2008) is about a song. The book is called THE BLOOD BALLAD. My father's family were all musicians of some sort, some more serious than others. My father could play six instruments, all self-taught. His brother was the most amazing guitar player I've ever heard. His brothers would sit on the front porch during the forties and fifties and sing six part harmony! (Because there were six of them!) And all of this musical genius came from their father, my grandfather. My grandfather was a fiddle player who was born in 1892. He played his first square dance at the seminary in Perryville when he was only fourteen, and was the lead fiddle player. My uncle told me there was a hundred couples at that dance. Pretty big debut. He played all over southeast Missouri and evidently had his own unique style that was known through out the area. I'm not sure where he learned to play, but family legend says his father played, as well, and I know his sister played the guitar. It is a family rich in music. So, I thought I would pay homage to my grandpa and write a book about it. Only in the book, of course, Torie discovers an old song that appears to be a confession to murder . . .
I just love that kind of stuff!
Rett

1 comment:

Glenda said...

Rett I love your blog. So interesting! I read one of your books for the first time about two months ago or so. Family Skeletons I believe was the title. I noticed your protagonist's father was a musician. Another way of bringing in some of your actual experiences I guess. I live in SE Kansas and am familiar with so many of the places you speak about. Maybe I haven't been there but I'm just familiar with it.
Glenda