Publication Day!! A rare event in any writer’s life, as all of us--no matter how prolific-- have only a finite number of books in us. The Home Guard began with an idea shortly after I arrived in Beaufort in 2005. That idea percolated over the next several years as I learned more about this luxurious, tide-happy corner of the planet.
A Major influence on my book turned out to be one published before I got here: The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 1, 1514-1861, written by my good friends Larry Rowland and Alex Moore, along with the late George C. Rogers, Jr. My copy was a gift from Pat Conroy, who inscribed it on Christmas day, 2006, as only he could: “To John, Barbara & All Warleys, Beautiful people, then and now. Loved by me, then and now & forever. Welcome home.” I doubt there is a single county in America which enjoys such a rich, detailed recorded history, and certainly none with a more gracious resident to welcome newcomers.
As I read and re-read the book Pat inscribed, the story that became The Home Guard lingered in my peripheral consciousness, still percolating. By 2010 it demanded my full attention, evidently no longer willing to hover in the background of whatever I was working on. Stories are like infants in gestation; when their time comes, you have to birth them. I began to focus my research on Beaufort during the Civil War, in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of Port Royal Sound, and on the characters that would become Carter, Missma, Anna, Reggie, Polk, Spruill and the others who would inhabit my fictional world.
Nine years and many drafts later, The Home Guard is published. I believe it to be an honest effort to tell a great story about characters I’ve come to care deeply about. My hope is that readers will feel the same, but that is now beyond my control. If you have followed these blogs, I thank you for your interest, and I’d love to hear from you when you’ve finished the book. Writing is priceless to the author; readers are priceless to the writing.