I have had a grand time putting together a Pinterest site of Boone-related images. Take a look.
The first line of my first draft was, "Look, they even moved his grave." This is from the version that had an academic researcher going on a wild cross-country goose chase with two of Boone's descendants. It wasn't great. My agent's reaction was along the lines of "I hate your book."
Onward and upward, right? By the time I got to a third-person draft, the opening line was, "They're coming. Cut the tugs." This had Daniel in the snow, about to be caught by the Shawnee for the second time, trying to get away ("tugs" is Olde-Timey for buffalo hide straps that hold a load on a horse). I had to get rid of a lot of Olde-Timey, including all the Quaker thees and thous in young Daniel's early life in Pennsylvania. They felt phoney and distracting. And the draft still wasn't great. Too distant.
But we persevere! Once I realized that I had to tackle a first-person voice for Daniel, a lot of the false stuff fell away by itself. I aimed for a voice that felt slightly removed, but approachable and human (there's swearing, and not just of the "God's blood!" variety). The final version of the first line, spat by some of young Dan's contemporaries, is, "'Your sister is a whore.'" He replies, "Which makes me a whoresbrother." That was my Dan. And my agent liked it too.
I wish I could sing. I can’t. I wish I could write songs. I can’t. I’m a fair enough pianist, and I accept my mediocrity. I love all kinds of music, though, and I’m thrilled that singer-songwriters with actual talent, The Old Familiar (aka my brother), and Tariq, are collaborating on a song for my upcoming book trailer! I’ll post it here when it’s ready.
Inspired by my friend Corinna Chong’s post about the soundtrack to her novel, Belinda’s Rings, here are thirteen songs that connect in some way with All True Not a Lie In It:
Kate Bush, “Wuthering Heights”
Reminds me of spinning around the living room as a kid. Emily Bronte is one of my long-term favourites, and the no-holds-barred Kate Bush gets me every time. I listened to it when I was just starting the first draft of my book. I should have listened harder—she easily inhabits Cathy’s character in the first person . . . it took me three complete drafts to do that. How many drafts, Kate Bush?!
Bach, Fugue in G Minor
Organ music sets my brain on fire. Bach is an arsonist.
Massive Attack, “Teardrop”
Glittering and throbbing, the pulse and the lyrics always sink me into my writing mindset.
Emmylou Harris et al., “Didn’t Leave Nobody but the Baby”
From the soundtrack to O Brother Where art Thou. Bluegrass is the music of Kentucky, my book’s main setting, and though it’s not of my novel’s time frame, it still hauls me into the past and into America. I imagine Daniel's family feeling this way, with him gone in the wilderness.
Ralph Stanley, “O Death”
Also from O Brother, this is a haunting vocal. I hear Daniel Boone in the singer’s bargaining with Death, as he has to do several times in my book.
Ruth Moody, “Trouble and Woe”
Ruth Moody has a beautiful, clear, strong voice, which makes me think of Daniel’s wife, Rebecca, whose voice I loved writing.
Shawnee Sioux War Dance
A YouTube mix with a contemporary edge. The calling voices are urgent and beautiful. Trying to conjure up the life of the Shawnee town in the novel was difficult. Music helped.
Soundgarden, “Fell on Black Days”
The line “I’m only faking when I get it right” is Daniel as he faces some of his most difficult moments, forced to make life or death decisions for himself and many others. Plus, it’s Soundgarden.
Tegan and Sara, “Walking with a Ghost”
Daniel finds himself walking—and talking—with ghosts throughout the novel. This is just a great rocknroll expression of how that feels, whether the ghost is of someone quick or dead.
Joan Baez, “Barbara Allen”
This is a centuries-old ballad imported to early America from England. The Boones would have known it. It’s still magic, and this is a good crackly folk version.
Iron and Wine, “Walking Far From Home”
The title sums up so much of Daniel’s life for me. It’s a hypnotic, deceptively simple song I love.
Wake Owl, “Wild Country”
This is a recent one that has wormed into my head. Whenever it crops up on the radio, I see Boone in his own wild country, trying to find his own heart.
He's DB to me now. Sounds like a high-school crush, maybe: initials carved into a desk. I do have a slight crush on him, but I keep myself aware that DB is my version of Daniel Boone, who was an actual person, hard as that can be to believe, given the legends that have silted up around him since he was alive.
Boone lived from 1734 to 1820. He grew up Quaker in Pennsylvania, the site of all kinds of family chaos, and left there, as a young man, for pastures new--and newer. He ended up moving on for much of the rest of his life, and is probably best known for helping open Kentucky, a pristine wilderness, to white settlement. My novel imagines him trying to find somewhere else, somewhere perfect, again and again. What happens when we do that, when we imagine something perfect can be grasped and held? The answer, I think, is hard suffering. Boone's son James was murdered, his daughter Jemima was kidnapped, and he was taken captive for months, all as a result of his pushing into Native American territories, and none of which stopped him trying.
What records there are portray him as charismatic, calm, quick-thinking, funny, and philosophical. My DB is that way, I think, and also hard-headed, full of desire, sometimes rash, sometimes confused. While I was writing the many early drafts, I kept having dreams about people who appeared to be him, but always turned out to be historical re-enactors (hmm). When I had finally cleared up his voice, I had a dream of walking along a creek in the fall, and feeling my walk change, my body and self change. Feeling that I not only had him, but that for about twenty steps I was him. A kind of possession, as A.S. Byatt put it. I was glad to have that ghost.
I began writing All True Not a Lie In It when I was pregnant with my first child. I remember lying on the floor of my study, which was about to become the baby's room, trying to think of what I wanted to write next. An image from an old National Geographic swam up: Daniel Boone in black ink and swooping watercolour, holding his son's body in his arms. I remembered reading that article over and over as a kid, staring hard at the illustrations.
Eventually I got off the floor and got the library to dig up the magazine for me. Reading again about Boone's life grabbed me hard; poking around further, I was startled to realize nobody had written the novel I suddenly wanted to write. I couldn't believe my luck. There's plenty about Boone out there, of course, and has been since his own lifetime--and there's The Last of the Mohicans in print and on film, plus the 1960s TV show. I wanted to fill in the gaps with my imagined version of him. From inside.
It took me several years, and several complete drafts. I had the voice wrong--it had to be first person, which I fought. I had to let go of some of the spare historical record. I had to use myself as well as trying to conjure up a dead man--my children ended up in the novel (screaming). But now I hear his voice all the time.
I'm the author of All True Not a Lie In It (Knopf Canada 2015, Ecco USA 2016) and The Old Familiar (Thistledown 2008).