Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Beat of a Different Drummer
Take a local legend, a misfit childhood, and a Civil War re-enactment, add water, and you get my new novel Drummer Boy.
The idea for the novel had been germinating for some time, originally called “The Jangling Hole” after a legend here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Because the peaks were so rugged and remote, deserters from both sides of the Civil War often hid out in the caves. Since they had no dog in the fight, they often camped together, being careful not to have campfires or otherwise give away their position.
According to legend, you can still hear the jangle or clink of their tools and mess kits inside the caves, often with a spooky echo. Ghosts are more fun when kids are involved, so I created a group of three friends who investigate the legend. The boys are loosely based on my own childhood, at least as far as the alienation and the sense of being an outsider. One of the boys is grappling with the idea of being gay, which adds its own special torments. His one dream is to be a drummer boy in his father’s Civil War re-enactment troop, but the father is distant and suspicious.
I served in a Civil War re-enactment a few years ago, so I brought that element of living history to the novel, though it’s very much a contemporary tale of the supernatural. The one thing about real “make-believe” war is that it’s loud and dangerous, with large horses, intense action, and a very loose script that creates a lot of improvisation. I wanted to combine that sense of make-believe with the actual legends and create a milieu in which the young boys try to fit in.
But the drummer boy discovers that he belongs in neither the world of the living nor the dead, but he is all that stands between the town and the ghostly Civil War troop. I’ve often used local Appalachian legends in my novels, and I try to write a couple of pages a day. I don’t outline, so each trip tp the keyboard is an adventure. I think if I knew the ending before I started, I’d be too bored to finish.
Drummer Boy offered me a wonderful journey, tying together legends I’d already researched, actual historical events, a character I’d used before, a reporter based on my experiences in journalism, and memories of my own childhood as spread out among the three young characters. We’re all misfit kids. Some of us are just a little older than others.
Scott Nicholson is the author of nine novels, including The Skull Ring, The Red Church, and They Hunger. He’s also written three story collections, six movie scripts, several children’s books, a number of songs and poems. He’s a freelance editor and also writes comic books. Signed copies and ebooks of Drummer Boy and other works are available through his Web site www.hauntedcomputer.com, as well as Amazon.com and Smashwords.com.