"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.