Many of you have asked where the inspiration for The Ashkettle Boys Book Series was born, and I thought it was time to answer that question truthfully.
The Ashkettle Boys Books are mostly fiction. As an author, I claim the right to borrow things — a cup of sugar here, the memory of a school mate there.
Some of the characters in the books are borrowed. They’re based on real people, and the way they talk, the things they do and think — those are real.
But reality is subjective, and not for everybody.
So we read books instead.
Or we write them.
And in the writing of them, hopefully, reality becomes bigger than life.
Where I grew up, we talked like the Ashkettle boys. We spent tons of time in the woods. We fished. We hunted — some of us for mushrooms, others for white-tailed deer and squirrel and rabbit. We built forts out of string, and we really did hang roots there to dry so we could eat them later.
We did run, squealing, from aging, limping beagles, pretending they were fierce.
They weren’t. They just wanted belly rubs.
Their names really were Pancho and Alexander. There was a cat too — Calla Lily — and my sister’s doll, Mary Ellen, named after her favorite Walton.
We dropped the occasional F-bomb (some of us more than others!) We struggled with our faith.
We had bad times and good times and those times in-between where you just pull yourself out of wherever you are in the morning and thank God that yesterday is over.
There really was a Monster Head. It’s there still, but much less pronounced now that I’m no longer seven years old. And it was my sister, Karen, and I who played there, instead of three boys named Sonny and Bo and Dack. And it was our mom who explored the woods with us, searching out teaberries and sassafras for us to try, and not a conservation officer named Everett.
But the feeling was the same.
There is still the well cap where Karen would sit and talk to yellow foxtails and where I would play in the dirt at her feet and listen. Our bedroom window looked out over that and the cluster of sumac trees, and there was a dusk-to-dawn light that drew Little Brown Bats like magnets.
I borrowed these things for my stories because they make me smile as I write them. I borrowed other things too.
So now you know. The stories are fiction, but telling them feels right. I hope you’ll continue to read them.