Illuminating History’s Shadows Through Fiction
Illuminating History’s Shadows Through Fiction

I Want to Read That!

Aug 20, 2023

Post it map for Red Clay, Running Waters


Write the book you want to read is advice I took to heart. Never mind that it took me forty years to write it. Mission accomplished.

Accomplishing Red Clay, Running Waters, however, hasn’t come without some existential pain. See, I’m not really a writer.

Writers write, they fill notebooks since they were five; they MUST express themselves in words, keep journals, and ogle over writing implements. Writer stress over punctuation. They’ve always known they were writers, even if they can’t make a living writing.

Not me.

A life-long reader, yes. A studier of history and cultures, yes. A lover of the written word, but hardly ever an aspiring Diana Gabaldon — that’s me. But one thing I’m good at is following my instincts and solving puzzles. And that’s how I came to be a Writer.

I owe a huge debt to every writer/author I have read – especially those in the 19th Century and those who write Historical Fiction – for all I learned and the language that filled my head over my many years. Without imbibing their craft and art, my ability to tell the Ridges’ story would be mute.

But that’s just it. Those I have read are Writers, while I? I am more of a quilter of stories, a puzzle solver, a storyteller, one who can’t even make up a story – ask my kids!

Those who actually makeup a story are beyond admiration, something I would never attempt. That’s why I write Biographical Historical Fiction. But see, I quilt, and I love jigsaw puzzles, so I know how to put together fragments into a whole. And that’s what I have done. I’ve assembled the events that clung to the Ridge family’s destiny and portrayed them (well, it is more nuanced than that, but . . .), and wrote the book I wanted to read for so long.

In writing, I often wished what I learned in my research was fiction, but unfortunately it was not. I now see History as a lot like a giant game of Telephone – Truth at one end, and the voice of Victors and Time garbling what happened into easily digestible snippets. I have come to recognize History is always subject to interpretation and new discoveries. Fron the start, I saw the Ridge story from a different angle – asking where truth lay, what the line between traitor and patriot was, where is the line between commitment and compromise – from the perspective of those held responsible. It drove my curiosity and then my passion. I had a strong instinct that if I put all the pieces together it would reveal what lead to the Ridges fateful role in the Trail of Tears – The Ultimate Question I Wanted Answered – and reveal extraordinary lives.

Then . . . I fell in love – with language and people long dead, with people who lived through great triumphs, and unspeakable tragedy. I fell in love with John and Sarah’s struggle for a better world, the Antebellum Era, and what happened along the way. I especially fell in love with John’s words, his eloquence, his heart, will, and his courage, as well as the Shakespearian quality of the lives the Ridge’s led.

Red Clay, Running Waters is the book I longed to read — one side of a truth, a refraction in a multifaceted prism of history, of lives, of a country, a society, of humankind — one informed by the words, actions, and spirits of those who lived it.

I doubt I will ever see myself a Writer. At nearly 73, I am unlikely to have a personality change (barring incident). I am learning to apply my ‘talents’ in a way I hardly expected these days. I am also learning how to behave like an Author. Hopefully the pieces of the Ridge story fit together so well, you will not care that I am not really a Writer, and you too will discover a book you always wanted to read as well.

Recent stories