Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My First-Co-Authored Novel By Sharyn McCrumb

A Literary Drafting Partner
By Sharyn McCrumb

Co-author a novel with a NASCAR driver?
I wasn't sure if it could be done, but it sounded like an adventure.

I met Adam Edwards, my co-author of the new novel Faster Pastor, at the Bristol spring race, when he bought a copy of St Dale, my NASCAR homage to The Canterbury Tales, and offered to give me technical advice on an future projects.
He soon became my crew chief for Once Around the Track in which he is also the character Tony Lafon

In December 2005, when Adam was trying out for ARCA in testing at Daytona, he and I lived the scene in Once Around the Track in which Taran takes photos of Tony Lafon in his fire suit in Victory Lane at Daytona, and he is engulfed by tourists who assume he is some famous race car driver. Adam posed for pictures, signed scraps of paper dug out of purses, and was charming to everyone, while I was elbowed into the fence by the crowd. And nobody ever asked who he was. “They nearly trampled a New York Times best-selling author to get to me,” Adam recalls. “It’s the fire suit. They’re magic.”

In July of 2006 he gave me my first ride-along in a race car at Lowes Motor Speedway: 170 mph, with me in a fire suit and helmet watching the wall come up in front of us only inches away. Trusting him to that extent required only a little less faith than taking him on as a co-author, something I have never done before. But, even though I don’t work and play well with others, this collaboration was my idea, and he was terrific.

In the final scenes of Once Around the Track, a character has to rescue a race car driver from a burning car in mid-race. Adam, who knew exactly how to do that, sent me the instructions in narrative form, and reading over it, I thought, “Hey, this is pretty good. I don’t have to change this too much.” In research, no matter how long it took or how complex the question, Adam always tried to make sure that I understood and got it right.

A friend and fellow Hokie Adam got his MBA from Virginia Tech, and is now director of a health care facility. Before that, he managed a Busch racing team, drove in both Pure Stock and in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series, and he taught the fine points of race car driving for the FastTrack School of Racing.

When I was writing Once Around the Track,Adam was instrumental in devising the 86 car’s winning edge, and his keen instinct for making the action scenes come alive for me was a key part of the narrative.

After I finished that novel, Adam did a number of programs with me at libraries and other venues to talk about the book, including: the Sullivan County Public Library, Bristol TN; the Roanoke VA Art Museum; the Montgomery County VA Art Museum; Radford University, VA; Don Beyer Volvo Authors Series, Falls Church VA; Barnes & Noble, Midlothian VA; Bristol TN Family Race Night; Patrick County VA High School; the Reynolds Homestead Cultural Center, Critz, VA.

Adam was patient, articulate and charming in public appearances, and he wrote pitch-perfect action scenes, and so one day I said, “Hey, do you want to try to write a book together? I have an idea that involves your field of expertise-- teaching middle-aged guys how to drive a race car.”

I told him the bare bones of the plot, which occurred to me as the plots of comic novels usually do, with the thought, “Wouldn’t it be funny if…”
Camber Berkley, a young stock car driver, wrecks his car on a
winding mountain road, landing right in the midst of the funeral of an elderly
NASCAR fan. As punishment for his spectacular car wreck, the local authorities
of the small Tennessee town of Judas Grove give him a choice: serve three months
in jail for reckless driving, or spend two weeks teaching the local ministers to
drive stock cars, so that they can compete in race whose prize is the $2 million
legacy left by that deceased NASCAR fan.

I’ll write the first thousand words, and send it to you via e-mail, and we’ll just go back and forth,” I told him. Writing requires a great deal of self-discipline, and I am a natural loner, definitely not the nagging type, so I thought, “If he doesn’t do his thousand words, we’ll just forget the whole thing. But he did. A thousand words came back, well-written and promptly sent. Warily now, I sent him another thousand words. Again, he sent another thousand back.

I called him up. “Look,” I said. “Writing a 100,000 word book is a long, tedious process. Most people never finish one. So here’s the deal. I’ll give you up to 22,000 words to get bored or stressed out and quit. No hard feelings. If you want out, just say so. But if we get to 22k, that is a viable literary fetus, and if you try to back out after that point, I will hunt you down.”
“No, no. I can do this.”
And he’s right. He could and did.

So we wrote Faster Pastor in a year’s time, found a publisher, and now the real adventure begins… We gave our first program together at the Hampton roads Writers Conference in Virginia Beach last weekend, but we expect to be on the road quite a lot in 2010 when Ingalls Publishing Group brings out the novel this spring.

Faster Pastor
By Sharyn McCrumb & Adam Edwards
ISBN: 9781932158878 -$25.00
e-mail: order@atlasbooks.com

Sharyn McCrumb is an award-winning Southern writer, best known for her Appalachian “Ballad” novels, set in the North Carolina/Tennessee mountains, including the New York Times Best Sellers She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her other best-selling novels include The Ballad of Frankie Silver and The Songcatcher. Ghost Riders, an account of the Civil War in the mountains of western North Carolina, won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature given by the East Tennessee Historical Society and the Audie Award for Best Recorded Book. St. Dale, The Canterbury Tales in a NASCAR setting, won a 2006 Library of Virginia Award as well as the AWA Book of the Year Award. Her most recent novels are The Devil Amongst the Lawyers and Faster Pastor, the latter co-authored by NASCAR driver Adam Edwards.

McCrumb, was named a “Virginia Woman of History” in 2008 for Achievement in Literature. Other honors include: AWA Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature Award; the Chaffin Award for Southern Literature; the Plattner Award for Short Story; and AWA’s Best Appalachian Novel.
She lives and writes near Roanoke, Virginia.