If we were having coffee I’d have to tell you about the find. I mean, we all seem to spend half our lives trying to find something, either our glasses, the car keys, or the remote control. Sometimes it’s something we hung onto for six years and threw away as useless only last week. Sometimes, it is something we weren’t even looking for. Those are the best, especially when it is something significant or remarkable.
That’s what this conversation is about, something I found that was both significant and remarkable. And I wasn’t looking for it, either, but I’m glad I know where it is now.
What I found was the original note I wrote detailing the basic premise of my novel, The Fever. I remember the fact of writing it but here was the remarkable thing: I didn’t know I had dated it. I don’t date anything, but I did this time. It was written 30 years previously THAT SAME WEEK. I’d come across it from time to time but hadn’t seen it since long before I wrote the novel. The mere fact of writing it down pretty much committed the few facts I jotted down to memory, but the note itself had been floating around the house for quite a while. I hadn’t planned on writing anything that day in 1986. My wife and I had gone to San Antonio for a weekend getaway. She was several months pregnant and had decided to take a nap after some of our running around and I retired to the hotel bar to let her sleep for a short while. Bored, I asked for some stationery and wrote down a page of notes.
There wasn’t a lot of detail but at the heart of it was this: “Shift to flashback – ten years earlier. Scene: Jail holding tank (Austin?) Protagonist is incarcerated >> befriending grizzled old-timer who has been manhandled by police during arrest. He was punched in the throat and is coughing up blood. Our hero holds his head up and gives him water and talks to him but he is dying. At this point he is told certain details of the lost Franco mine in West Texas. They seem to be the muddled words of a dying wino but the hint of truth rings clear. The information seems to be a bit more than an empty legend. The man dies and the information is quietly filed away.”
The novel has all of that, although I later found a bit of Texas folklore to use as the goal — not sure how I concocted the “Franco” mine, but it was the idea I think. But the injured wino in jail, making his deathbed confession remained the catalyst of the story over all the years of speculation, writing, and revision.
The note ended up with: the hero beginning to … “research the legend. The information he was given jives with the legend — and then some. The fire burns in his breast now and he tries to find every and any shred of evidence he can. He studies historical records, oral histories, geologic maps, & topographic maps >> IF it exists — maybe he can find it.”
All remained central to the story. Even the “fire burns in his breast now’ … later naturally applied itself to the title: The Fever.
It’s ironic I find it right now too, I’d tell y ou … here, right on the cusp of the publication of the sequel to The Fever. I never envisioned an extension to the story, but now there is not only an extension, there is even a third book in the works.
All from my decision to take a short break in a bar in San Antonio Texas.
Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. He is the author of The Fever and A Curse That Bites Deep (Due out October 1). More info: http://thefensk.com