Wednesday, March 30, 2016

author note

STEPHEN KING likens the job of a writer to that of an archaeologist. He’s come to the conclusion, after writing the books he’s written, that writers don’t make up stories as much as they unbury them:

      Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much out of the ground intact as possible. Sometimes the fossil you uncover is small; a seashell. Sometimes it’s enormous, a Tyrannosaurus Rex with all the gigantic ribs and grinning teeth.

     That’s certainly been my experience writing this book. I didn’t have to make anything up. The stories were already there, captured on little pieces of paper, waiting to be told. I just had to find them and unbury them.
     When I began the project four years ago, digging up my own family’s albums and scanning the photographs inside, it felt like unearthing scattered fossils, but once I started digging through other families’ old photographs of Catahoula — first my uncle, then my aunt, then my next-door neighbor, then my other next- door neighbor, etc. — it eventually dawned on me that it wasn’t scattered fossils I was unburying. I was unburying an entire skeleton, the very skeleton of Catahoula.
     And so the excavation proceeded. I dug and dug and dug until I’d dug up every bone, the whole Tyrannosaurus, grinning teeth and all, and I wrote this book for you. Enjoy.