I am the author of Limestone Gumption: A Brad Pope and Sisterfriends Mystery. To write this debut novel, I did a good deal of research. I first learned about the area that I wrote about from vacationing in the area and eventually buying a vacation home on the Suwannee River, where the novel is set. To get into the mindset of the novel, I read or re-read all of my favorite Southern novelists among whom are Pat Conroy, John Hart, Flannery O’Connor, Fannie Flagg, and Zora Neal Hurston, just to name a few. Plus, being a researcher by trade, I researched cave diving and actual cases of divers drowning in the caves. I listened and watched the people and customs of locals with the ardor of an anthropologist (Margaret Mead would’ve been my best friend). I read the history of the area, including a 1948 novel, Seraph on the Suwannee by famed novelist Zora Neal Hurston. I frequently kayaked the Suwannee, tubed down Itchtuknee Springs, and listened to locals’ tales about the history of the area. I read books about the Florida laws and dangers of underwater cave diving, conducted Internet research, and interviewed local expert dive outfitters about the technical aspects of their underwater treks.
I think being a psychotherapist helped me use real-life settings to mirror a character’s mood and mindset. I use the Suwannee River and underwater caves as essential inter-workings of the minds of the characters. I use the river and caves as threads to weave parallels to the plot and character development. For example, the title of the book originated from the fact that for centuries the Suwannee River has cut through limestone, forming huge underwater caverns. The limestone yields to the force of the river instead of resisting it. Through yielding, the limestone becomes a feature of the river, a beautiful and smooth, well-polished cavern, and the strength of its true character is revealed. Limestone gumption is a metaphor for when the main character—after being accused of cutting the guideline of a popular local cave diver who drowns—must call upon his limestone gumption to deal with overwhelming forces.
It took me almost ten years to write Limestone Gumption. In that time span, I was learning to write in a different way, plus I had my clinical practice (which I still have) and university teaching and research day jobs. So I wrote the novel on vacations, holidays, and weekends, off-and-on over the course of ten years. Then it took about two more years before it made it off the press. My latest projects won’t take nearly that long, because I’ve carved out more time to write and my ten-years experience has picked up my speed and quality of writing. Now I limit my time at my private practice to three days a week. I devote Friday through Mondays to writing. I start at 5:30 a. m. and work until noon, take a nap after lunch, then continue writing until 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.
I just finished the sequel to the first novel, called She’ll Be KILLING Round the Mountain, set in the mountains of Asheville, NC. I also have a contract for a nonfiction book for mystery writers, Don’t Murder Yourself Before Finishing Your Mystery, plus a narrative nonfiction memoir titled, Crazy Papers: A Southern Memoir, that reads like a novel with lots of intrigue, vivid descriptions, and dialogue that shows instead of tells.
Thanks Bryan. Your insight into hands on research is valuable. For more info on Bryan check out his website.
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