Thursday, December 8, 2011

My John and Tom (Part 1)

I thought I’d do something a little different for the next few months, and spend a bit more time talking about a single project: where I got the idea, how I developed it, and what I hoped the story would accomplish. A beginning-middle-end, if you will.

It wasn’t hard to choose the topic, as my latest book is a story I’ve been waiting most of my life to tell.

So today, I’m beginning the first of a three-part discussion of my latest book. But first, let me introduce my dear friends, John and Tom.

I was first drawn to the story of Adams and Jefferson because I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. My father worked at the State Department, and so I think I was more aware of government than a kid living somewhere else might have been. I went in to DC and saw places like the Capitol and the National Mall pretty often.

I turned sixteen the summer of the country’s bicentennial, and I remember going downtown: it seemed like there were a gazillion tourists and even more of those sidewalk stands selling little American flags and patriotic t-shirts.

But even before then, I was tuned in to celebrating America’s independence, and that was because my mom and dad were big musical theater buffs. They had a whole cabinet full of Broadway recordings, and they listened to them almost every night. The musical “1776” was one of their favorites.

“1776” is the often funny and often quite moving story of the Continental Congress as they grappled with the enormous question of whether to remain a British colony or to declare independence—committing treason in the process.

The musical premiered on Broadway in 1969, and I think my parents must have bought the record shortly thereafter—when I was about ten years old. Many nights at bedtime *it* was the album I’d ask my dad to put on in the living room downstairs, so I could listen to it upstairs. I fell asleep listening to John urging Congress to “Vote YES” and to Tom wooing his wife on the violin.

I fell in love with the musical “1776.” It was my first glimpse that history could be just as exciting and engaging as any novel or movie.

So, in a sense, I grew up with John and Tom, and it’s not surprising that one day I would tell *my* version of their lives: Those Rebels, John and Tom.

Next month, I share a bit about researching and writing the book.


Myra Zarnowski said...

Thank you so much for sharing the details about how you began writing your latest book. This is such useful information for us teachers. We desperately want real stories about how authors work. I am anxious for your next post.

Barbara Kerley said...

Thanks, Myra! I'm never sure what to post and how useful it might be. But I know when I go hear authors talk, I'm always interested to hear their personal connection to the book they've written :)