This afternoon as I watched an old Western called The Bells of San Angelo, I realized why I have given Billie an obsession with a daddy who looks like Roy Rogers. My own daddy looked so much like the King of Cowboys, especially in profile, they might have been mistaken for twins. They both had those wonderfully chiseled cheekbones and that sculpted nose.
Another similarity shared by Daddy and Roy Rogers was a love of horses. Roy had Trigger, and Daddy had whichever horse happened to be closest to the barn. The one he enjoyed riding most was a perfectly beautiful stallion named Tony, who belonged to my cousin next door. It was a thrilling sight to see Daddy atop that big horse, riding over the farmland he loved.
That’s the magic of writing – when a forgotten memory bubbles to the surface as story, when it fits the character so well it’s hard to tell memory from fiction. As I wrote about ten-year-old Billie’s obsession with Roy Rogers, I recalled the games I played with my baby sister in the backyard, both of us on stick horses pretending to be Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. But it was only when I saw Roy again on the TV screen that it struck me how I had used early memories to make Billie come alive on the pages of The Sweetest Hallelujah.
I’ll be in the Atrium Ballroom at the Marquis Mariott next Wednesday at 5:30, signing books to benefit literacy. I hope to see many of you there. Though The Sweetest Hallelujah won’t be in bookstores until July 30, I’ll bring signed bookplates and bookmarks. Also, you’ll get a sneak peak at the BIG CONTEST I’m having for the launch of this book. Your choice of a Kindle, a Nook or a $100 bookstore gift card!
Roy (not the King of Cowboys, but my webmaster) will post details later in the month. Stay tuned!