Looking out my window at the haze of smoke and driving around and seeing the smoke billowing above the trees here in East Texas reminds me of a huge fire that occurred in the Kistachie National Forest of Central Louisiana back in the late 1980s. I couldn’t find the exact date, but I hadn’t been married long and can remember seeing the smoke from our house 20 miles or so away.
My book, The Bottle Tree is based in the Kisatchie Forest and as I mentioned elsewhere I have actually walked the hills that the characters in there walk, ate the huckleberries off of the scraggly bushes, and found remnants of the old turpentine camps so I dearly love that area. When it was burning it hurt my heart. Now, twenty years later, you occasionally see some burn marks on trees but even those have mostly faded.
I guess my point in saying this is that the loss of people, property, and scenery is horrible but nature has a way of forcing us to recognize that underbrush, drought conditions, and carelessness have results. Just the other day someone drove by our yard when my wife was walking ‘Sup the Wonder Dog. The person casually flipped a lighted cigarette out the window and it landed in our yard. Luckily, she stomped the butt and nothing happened, but what if it had been a quarter mile down the road…or she wasn’t in the front yard…or it was at night.
As writers it is our duty, and actually our compulsion, to take incidences like this and let them live on through our writing. Not just that fires occurred but why they happened and, even more importantly, tell about the people that were affected.
The Bottle Tree deals with fictional life in a real turpentine camp that existed in the Kisatchie Forest in the early 20th century. What the book is about, however, are the people there, mainly Caleb, Leesie, and Johnny and a dog Bo.
That camp will live on as long as people read my book. The people whose lives were affected by the these fires, even those who died in them, can live on in the books as well..
Oh, and when you sell a book, send a donation to the firefighters.