Tag Archives: junebug and the monkey

My Hero Has Down’s Syndrome

I have two series of books that I write. Well, since you have to have more than one book connected together to have a series I actually have one series and the aspirations (and a half written follow up) for a second.

The first series is the Junebug series based around the protagonist Junebug Walker. If you've read Junebug and the Body you know it is a nostalgic mystery with a lot of humor. It's set in the South, has a distinct southern slant, and I am working on the second book, Junebug and the Monkey, as the mood strikes me.

However, it's the Noah Chance series that I am blogging about today

Noah Chance is a young man in his early 20s who has Down's Syndrome and can see and talk to ghosts. He is the hero in both No' Chance and Second Chance, and hopefully we'll be seeing and hearing more from him as the books continue. 

I don't even remember now how Noah got his start, other than one day he and his two compadres were there in my mind, almost fully developed and just as you read about them in No' Chance. I didn't decide I wanted to write a book with a character who has Down's Syndrome, the character has it…because Noah has it.

I do know I was greatly influenced in my depiction of Noah by a woman I knew, let's call her Kay.

Kay was in her early 40s and had lived with her mother until the mother passed away, at which time she was placed in a group home by the state. In my other life I was hired by Kay's sister to file for guardianship over her, a guardianship which was opposed by the company who ran the group home and who, incidentally, received funds every month for providing Kay a place to live.

I had the opportunity to meet with Kay on one occasion with only her and the attorney (appointed by the court to represent her in the case). The other attorney was a friend of mine and sat in the corner and allowed me to talk with Kay for almost an hour. The meeting that day started when Kay entered my office wearing a bright floral design dress and a huge, wide brimmed hat with flowers on it. When she saw me for the first time she broke into a huge smile and rushed over to give me a big hug and thank me for trying to help her get to live with her older sister.

It was my first time interacting on an extended basis with someone who has Trisomy 21, the genetic condition commonly referred to as Down's and I left that day with the certainty that meeting Kay had benefited me much more than it had benefited her. I had never, ever met someone who I could say had no ulterior motives, hidden agendas, or anything other than an open and loving heart.

We did win her case and the last I heard, Kay was living in Portland, Oregon with her sister. For a while I received a card from her at least once a year and it always made me smile.

The Story of Junebug and the Body

While I had written a couple of books before  Junebug , this is the first novel that I liked enough to pursue publishing. I started it almost 18 years ago, and mostly finished it back in 2006, but then kept messing with it until last year.

The book was represented by a couple of agents at different times, but they were never able to sell it without the publisher wanting me to "update" it to the current time, which I actually did at one point but in my mind the story lost a lot of its character being set in the 21st century as opposed to the early 1970s.

Junebug and The Body involves two friends, Joe Ben and Junebug, who live in the small east Texas town of St. John. While the setting in the book is ostensibly Texas, in reality it is based on what I remember of my hometown, Natchitoches, La.

Junebug and The Body actually started as a couple of pages written about a person that I knew, a local reporter who could often be seen walking around town scribbling in a little notebook he carried with him. For some reason, while at work one day, I wrote a paragraph about "Scoop", as the local newspaper reporter was jokingly referred to by the townspeople. The character seemed to take over and before I realized it I had written two full pages, including the character sketch that eventually made it into  Junebug and The Body . However, for some reason Scoop quickly became a secondary character as Joe Ben, Junebug, and Uncle Jasper appeared.

Unlike many writers I have an absolute inability to outline a story or book, even the non-fiction ones that I occasionally write. Instead, I find that the books take on their own life and the story kind of writes itself. I may make a note or two about something I eventually want to add, but usually the end result of the book was nothing like I thought it was going to be.

I knew from the beginning that  Junebug and The Body would be the first in a series and that it would be both a comedy and a murder mystery, but  other than that  I didn't know anything about the book. I had the book almost completed at one point and had written the lead in to an ending that I didn't like, I now don't even remember what it was, but for some reason the creative juices just stopped flowing. I had the dreaded writers block.

I started on a couple of other books, but Junebug was sitting there in the back of my mind, 95% completed and a book which I not only enjoyed writing but also one which I enjoyed reading. It cruised along like that for several months, percolating in the back of my mind but still unfinished. 

One day we were driving back home from a visit to my mother's house in Natchitoches. Karren was driving and I was semi-dozing in the passenger's seat, the kids in the back of the min-van asleep (all three of them would instantly fall asleep when we started driving, a trait their mother and I greatly appreciated. My daughter's now-husband says she still does that, and the boys are the same.) We were almost to the Marshall exit off of I-20 when I suddenly came awake, the ending for the book having popped into my mind and tying up all the loose ends I had created and loved in the novel.

I had to go back and do a little rewriting, changing things here and there to make it fit, but the essential parts of the book were finished in a couple of days.

That seems to be the way it works in most of my writings, I don't actually put a lot of thought into what happens. Instead I just start writing and see what develops. In some, I have a general idea of what I want to put in there, like in book two of the Junebug Series, Junebug and the Monkey, I knew there was going to be a monkey and voodoo, but other than that the story is once again writing itself.

I just wish it would write a little faster!