Sometimes a place can inspire a story. It started here, then a few scandals reported in the local newspaper, then a short story published in The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and now a novel.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Opposition Candidate

"Sunshine Highway" has been out a year now.  Publishing a book that actually means something to the local community has been an eye-opener to me.  Fiction can make a difference?  Who would've thought?  Sure, Jonathan Swift and Charles Dickens and Upton Sinclair made a difference, but astonishing to me, fiction can still be relevant.

I was apprehensive when I first published the book.  I drove under the speed limit.  I kept a low profile.  Then, I was approached by local activists who wanted to use my book to get a new sheriff elected.  Hold on, now!  Yikes!  But in a quiet way I agreed.  I wanted to keep it a "virtual" book, which seemed somehow safer to me.  And so, much like "The Help", "Sunshine Highway" became an underground hit in the community.  A message of change.  The central image of my book, the truck cemetery, became synonymous with the new sheriff's campaign.  In fact, someone stuck a campaign sign on the lot where the trucks are parked!

And now we have a new sheriff.  We have some new faces on the city council.  The 35-year reign of the good-ole-boys has ended.  There is hope in the community.  No huge expectations of quick change, perhaps, but a sense that one can breathe again.
In all fairness, I have not once felt intimidated.  That in itself shows that the community is changing, open to change.  Addressing injustices of the past can lead to healing.

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