How I Created My First Novel

You won’t understand the good-ole-Boys of the South if you only listen to Jeff Foxworthy and other comedians of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. While their writing and jokes are funny and often true, there can be much more to the Bubbas of the South. I grew up observing the good-ole-boys who lived along the Red River in North Texas and I learned some things from them. There are many synonyms for these renegades and outlaws who made the Texoma region their vacation land– good-ole-boys, rednecks, desperadoes. They are the subject matter of songs we love, songs written by men who have a bit of the outlaw in them–men like Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings. I like those songs so much I’ve suggested to my good musician friend, Johnny O’Neal that he create a CD of the many outlaw songs he does. Having played bass guitar with him for over a year, I noticed how the crowds LOVE those songs. The good-ole-boys of the South with their dark, wild, violent and quirky characteristics have inspired many movies. Newspaper articles about them shock us as we read of their bizarre and sometimes brutal escapades. Of course, women in the Red River Valley can also demonstrate the same characteristics.

One day I was listening to my mother, Jessie Faye Pittman (Don’t you just love Southern names?) tell me story after story of the crazy antics of the rednecks who lived along the Red River. I was writing down every one of the tales in total amazement. My mother stopped suddenly and said: “I don’t know what gets into people who live along this Red River. It’s like they’re sick or something.” At that moment the title of my novel popped into my brain: Red River Fever. I got to work, and a year later, I had a novel.

At signings and readings in North Texas, I will often have someone say to me: “You wrote about my uncle, didn’t you? He said he was the one that done that . . .” I assure them that the novel is a work of fiction and that I did not have their uncle in mind. (Do novelists ever change the names and other details to protect the guilty?) These boys along the Red River could get so out of control that I chose this quotation by Thomas Moore as an opening epigraph: