I keep a notebook for each book I write. I thought it might be fun to share some of those pages with readers through a series of posts. Today’s post, the fourth in the series, will focus on my third novel, Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine.
I love this notebook! It’s my favorite of all I’ve kept so far (a gift from fellow author Sonia Gensler) and even inspired two different poems — “Ode to a Research Notebook,” which is still the most satisfying blog post I’ve ever written, and “Oh, Notebook Mine” (just realized that should be “O Notebook Mine” — oh well), which I sold to the SCBWI Bulletin and was inspired by the first poem.
Jasper was tricky in that it was the first book I wrote where there were mass quantities of information I could delve into. To this day, this is the book I researched most thoroughly. It was also the first book where I visited the place I was writing about (see evidence above of my day in Skagway, Alaska).
It took me a while to decide where Jasper was from. Would he have grown up on a claim outside Alaska’s Circle City, or one near Forty Mile, the oldest town in Canada’s Yukon Territory?
Or would he have lived much farther away, somewhere like Kirkland, Washington?
Below is a sunrise / sunset chart for various places Jasper stayed and information on the real “One-Eyed Riley,” a name too fun to pass up!
Here’s a little pep talk I found that I’d written to myself. It’s kind of corny, but it’s also a great metaphor for writing this novel:
Like the Stampeders wandering toward a destination that sometimes proved insurmountable, elusive, and far, far out of reach, I will push on with a story that has no plot as of yet, I will learn on the journey, change course when needed, [and] keep moving toward the gold — a complete manuscript I can somehow, someway, someday work with!
One of the most interesting bits of research I did was reading Stephen Bramucci‘s thesis, Huck’s Legacy: The Complex Nature of the Humorous, First-Person Storyteller. (Jasper’s character was inspired by Huckleberry Finn.) Those of you who’ve read the book: do you see parallels between the two?
Here I am trying to piece together the clues to One-Eyed Riley’s mine.
Looking back at this notebook has reminded me how proud I am of the work I did. Jasper‘s a good one! If you haven’t read his story yet, I encourage you to pick up a copy.
Read the post about May B. here.
Read about Over in the Wetlands here.
Read about Blue Birds here.
Marilyn Hilton says
Caroline, these notebook posts are so interesting and inspiring. Thanks for sharing your process about each book and project.
Thank you, Marilyn. I’ve really enjoyed writing these posts. They’ve been a reminder that stories that start from scattered ideas really can grow into something cohesive.
Steve Cromwell says
Your research really shone in this book. As with the scene where the steamer unloaded a horse by simply dropping it into the harbor. That’s one of those unique scenes you’d never imagine, but which history is full of.
Also, after reading these posts, I’m really thinking of switching to using notebooks instead of Word, because there’s so much room to play and toss about ideas and draw connections and all. And after the book is done, they’re a great scrapbook to the journey!
Thanks! That was a fun detail (hard to believe, but true). I like being able to think with paper and pen, though I do find I keep documents of notes and links and questions and the like on the computer, too. Sometimes I print them up and paste them in to keep everything together.