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!