Cataloochee Man   A Novel


             
             




The Story
Writing
Characters
Publishing
The Setting


The Story

        Between 2004 to 2007, I did a considerable amount of hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was drawn to the Cataloochee Valley area because of its great beauty and intriguing history. Because I hiked alone and would often walk for hours without coming upon another person, I came to appreciate just how vast the park was and that in spite of millions of visitors a year, relatively few venture into the back country.

        In May of 2003, Eric Rudolf, perhaps best known as the Olympic Park Bomber, was captured. He had lived for five years as a fugitive from the FBI in the wilderness near Murphy, North Carolina. I am no fan of Eric Rudolf, but I thought about his story while I was hiking the Cataloochee Valley. The fact that he was able to elude capture for so many years by supposedly living in the wilderness gave me the nucleus of the story. Once I had the idea of someone living in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I had to work out the reason why he was there and what he did in the park.

Writing

        I published my first novel, Wooden Spoons, in the summer of 2006. I was so encouraged with the the reaction to it, that I began writing Cataloochee Man shortly afterwards.

        The writing for this novel came much easier than it did for Wooden Spoons. I wrote one chapter after the next almost exactly as they would eventually appear in the book. Writing Wooden Spoons was a wild affair with chapters changing places or getting cut. At one stage, I went off on a tangent for several chapters and never used any of them.That was never the case with Cataloochee Man

       I worked on the first draft for Cataloochee Man for a little over ten months. Over this period, I did research on the Cataloochee Valley, which included reading a book about people who have gone missing in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and have never been found and another book about rescues in the park. Material for the story was garnered from each of these sources.

Characters


        Most of the characters in Cataloochee Man were made up as the story progressed. Unlike Wooden Spoons none of the characters were based on someone I knew. I really can't say why this is the case. I actually didn't think about it until now.

        However, like in Wooden Spoons, the characters changed as the story developed. Once a character was developed, it made later scenes easier to write, because I knew how they would behave.

        Perhaps the most complicated character for me, at least in the writing, was Abe Ramsey. The story really hinged on who he was and how he behaved. I often changed parts of the story to suit his character and just as often, changed him to fit the way the story was progressing.


Publishing

       I completely self published Cataloochee Man. That is, I dideverything from writing the story, to formatting the text to designing and laying out the cover. That is one of the reasons it took so long to publish - I had to teach myself how to do it.

       I essentially have my own publishing company now, Walnut Creek Press. The Manuscript for Wooden Spoons along with cover photographs were sent to a print on demand company that did the formatting and cover design. For me, being in control of the entire process makes a novel more of a complete work of art.

       The cover photograph was taken on Walnut Creek, directly behind my studio. For several days in early July of this year, I took pictures of my shadow on Walnut Creek. The sun was at the right angle around five o'clock. I constructed a mock bow of a thin board and picture-hanging wire and slung it over my shoulder. Of nearly fifty images, I eventually chose the third one I took. This was modified considerably in Photoshop, most significantly by adding a right arm. I had mine up against my chest, holding the camera.

       I am even more committed to self-publishing at this stage of my career.



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The Setting



          I first visited the Cataloochee Valley six years ago. Like many people, I went to see the elk. Elk were reintroduced into Great smoky mountains National Park, beginning in 2001 and  Cataloochee Valley was chosen as the area for their release. The valley is a unique location because of it's isolation and lush meadows. 

          A few years later, I wanted to do some serious hiking and naturally chose Cataloochee Valley. Over a two year period, I made numerous excursions in Cataloochee Valley, exploring all of the major trails. One hike that became my favorite is a nine mile loop that samples all the intersting aspects of the valley: meadows, mountaintops, streams, wildlife, and historical artifacts

         Largest of the poplar trees.



         Footbridge over Caldwell Fork

          About midway along the loop are three huge poplar trees located on a short loop off the main trail. This is one of my favorite spots and and is where I often stop for lunch. This site became a focal point of the story.



The Woody House

      Junction of Caldwell Fork Trail  and Rough Fork Trail




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