For now, at least, I’m done with my part for The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch, my forthcoming picture book biography (published by Eerdmans) of a guy who in 10 years went from teenage field slave to U.S. congressman during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
This one has already had a long history. I completed my first draft in early 2007, sold it to Eerdmans two years ago this month, and made a research trip to Mississippi and Louisiana this past spring, along the way visiting the plantation where he was born, the mansion where he was a house slave, and the old Mississippi capitol building, where he began his political rise in his early 20s and soon thereafter served as Speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
My first immersion in my research materials occurred close to five years ago, and in conjunction with revisions and my research trip, I’ve gone back in up to my neck over the past year. But as of late July, with the completion of a revision, with the addition of a brief author’s note and “for additional information” section, the manuscript is done (or “done,” as I’ve come to accept through my experiences with my first three books), awaiting the illustrator’s half of the magic. So, that was that, right?
Not quite. I love researching, but after two deep dives for this project, I’m not interested in doing a third when The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch is published. Reconstruction itself is a major presence in this story, and I don’t want to have to reacquaint myself with the details — which are as complex as they are essential to an understanding of U.S. history — in order to get the facts just right when producing essays, articles, blog posts, etc. in support of the book’s publication.
So, I’ve written them now. I’ve produced a detailed bibliography that will most likely be published only online. I’ve put together a five-page timeline tying together key events in John Roy Lynch’s early life with the milestones of Reconstruction in Mississippi and on the national stage. And I’ve written a few long pieces about the subject and my writing of the book, all ready to be removed from cold storage in a couple of years, give or take.
My final act has been to go over my research contacts for this project to make sure that everyone has been properly thanked (well, as properly as is possible before there are copies of the finished book to send out) for their contribution to my efforts to tell Lynch’s story. Sure enough, I found a couple of key people that I had overlooked, so I’ve sent thank-you notes to them. My momma raised me right.
Now, I wait for the illustrations. And move on to the next thing.