Finally, I got to writing about one of my books. The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is a Middle Grade novel about a boy in search of treasure in the 1940s. While the sequel has not yet been published, trust me when I say this is part of a middle grade book series. Seriously, trust me.
Before we get into dissecting The Treasure at Devil’s Hole, I would like to shamelessly plug the book which you can find by clicking the link below the image below. Hope you enjoy, because I KNOW you are going to buy a copy. I KNOW you are, said as if I were a mafioso boss “asking” you to buy. While the Italian mob is at least two generations back in my family, I can assure you my book is still around and for sale. #shamelessplug
Onto the dissection
One of the most commonly heard of expressions in writing is, “Write what you know.” But, what does that mean?
To some, writing what you know is what you’ve studied in school or what you do for a living. For example, a history professor may write an epic historical novel focused on his or her area of study. A police officer may write a detective novel. For others, writing what you know is an internal struggle. A good example is Anne Rice, author of the Vampire Chronicles who began writing about vampires due to her child’s death of a rare blood disease. Others write about bits and pieces of their past or stories they’ve been told over the years.
Like many writers, I tend to take from all of the above, however, the stories my dad and his mom told me while I was growing up were some of the most influential of my life. Those stories often find a place in my books and short fiction.
I’ll give you The Treasure at Devil’s Hole as an example. Regardless of how many books I end up writing, this book will always be among my favorites. The reason is that it is the first book that incorporated some of my favorite stories growing up. I love when writers take the time to explain their inspiration for a book and why their book is meaningful to them or fascinating facts about their research and development of a book.
The following is an excerpt I have at the end of the book explaining my inspiration for The Treasure at Devil’s Hole:
Inspiration for The Treasure at Devil’s Hole
No book truly comes without inspiration, and The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is no different. My father was always a good storyteller; most of his stories were based on a small farm deep in the Arkansas Ozarks where my Grandma raised several sons and a daughter.
So where did the ideas for this story come from? My grandma was the inspiration for Bug’s mom. She was one of my first readers and, while she may hate me for saying so in publication, agreed that a woman in the Ozarks with that many kids (especially boys) would indeed fit the mom’s description in this book. Other characters? Bug Mosser and his brothers are a good mixture of my two sons. Miss Julia Brandon was inspired by a girl in high school who all the guys had a crush on, although last I heard she is married with beautiful kids and has not robbed a bank. Grandpa is based off an old mercury miner named Sy who was a neighbor of my grandma’s in Arkansas. I came across some old letters of his and began asking questions, which introduced me to stories of a wildly interesting man. Something about him wanted me to make sure his life lived on through these pages.
The treasure? Fiction, based on the dozens of stories I’d read over the years, The Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona being the first of those. The Sikeston Brothers? Fiction. Devil’s Hole? A little bit of both. Devil’s Hole was a mix of several caves in and around Izard County, Arkansas – Clay, Big Mouth, Potato, Blanchard Springs, and even a little bit of Hobo’s Den which is set to return on it’s own. The town of Possum Flats? Fiction, although driving through the towns of Salem and Melbourne, you may see some familiar sites.
Lastly, and most important is Tom digging a well for Mom and using dynamite which blows a boulder through her kitchen? Absolute fact! I told you, my grandma raised some rowdy boys.
I wrote that excerpt – and, for the most part, have left it untouched – when I first completed the book. However, over the years I have elaborated on the characters in guest blog posts, interviews, and articles. For example, the boulder being blown into my grandmother’s kitchen has been a popular discussion point.
What most people don’t realize is that the book was originally supposed to feature Tom – not Bug – as the main character. The story of digging the well was the highlight of the story. Yet, as I began writing, Bug emerged as the main character and the story of the well merely a background. Yes, it is true that my dad, his brother John, and my grandpa were digging a well. When they came to a giant boulder my grandpa decided to blow the boulder with dynamite, which sent a large chunk of the stone (and almost my grandpa) through the roof of their kitchen. I’ll expand more on that story some other time, but it was that story that brought The Treasure at Devil’s Hole into being.
For any emerging writers out there, I’d like to offer another of the millions of writing tips you’re sure to hear: Dissect your book for the reader. Even in my short excerpt above I’ve received dozens of emails and letters asking me questions, the biggest one being, when is there going to be a sequel. When readers are asking questions, then it shows they are emotionally drawn to and curious about the book – the goal of most writers.
By dissecting your book you can also leave trace information for curious readers who flip to the back of the book, or for others who are looking for an interesting spin on a summary.
What I am working on now
And, like I said, The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is a series. I’ve actually written the next two books but have not been thrilled with the editing or rewrites, so I’m still playing around. The names of the next books are The Strange Circus and Orphan Train. I am also working on a non-fiction book about the Civil War in Izard County, AR and lastly an adult novel – two actually – based on a treasure hunt in the Ozarks.
Of course, I will let you know when those have been published. For now, sit back, enjoy life, and don’t forget to buy The Treasure at Devil’s Hole.