Books rarely spring to life in a vacuum, or wholely formed from the minds of their authors like Athena from the forehead of Zeus. County Line is no different.
County Line had many sources of inspiration, but I’d like to draw attention to one in particular. In May 2010 central Tennessee, including Nashville, experienced a flood of disastrous proportions. Homes and businesses were destroyed and many lost their lives. Damages reached $1.5 billion. In response to this disaster, three Nashville writers—Myra McEntire, Amanda Morgan, and Victoria Schwab—organized a benefit called Do the Write Thing for Nashville. They invited writers, editors, publishers, and literary agents to donate items and services for auction, with the proceeds of the sales going to Middle Tennessee flood relief. I had the privilege of offering a set of my books and naming rights to a character in County Line, then a work-in-progress. The response was both thrilling and humbling. The winner of my package, K.D. James, chose to honor the city of Nashville with the character she named. Hence, Chief Nash was born.
Myra, Amanda, and Victoria are amazing, inspirational women. You can learn more about Do the Write Thing for Nashville at: dothewritethingfornashville.blogspot.com, and from there, you can find your way to their own web sites where you will learn they are amazing writers as well.
Many locations in this story are real. I attended Valley View High School in the late 70s and relied on both my memories and on family photos from the time in my descriptions of the school. I lived on Preble County Line Road not far from certain events in Ruby Jane’s life.
Though I have many memories of the Farmersville/Germantown area—I ate pizza at both the Village Inn in Farmersville and the Pizza Palace in Germantown, and ran the bleachers at the stadium—those thirty-years-past recollections could take me only so far. Alas, a visit in person to re-acquaint myself with my former haunts turned out to be impractical. Forced to rely on imperfect memory and old photo albums, I did the next best thing. I asked for help.
I owe thanks to Chief Jon Schade of the Jackson Township Police, who chatted with me both by phone and email. Chief Schade offered helpful details about law enforcement in the area. In 1979, I spent about an hour in the Farmersville police station waiting for my mom to pick me up after being caught in the act of stealing a Chicken Bristle Road sign. I didn’t pay much attention to my surroundings, since I was too worried about what my step dad would do when he found out his screwdriver and wrench had been confiscated. As it happened, a friend’s father—and teacher at Valley View—picked me up instead, the tools were returned, and no one else had to find out about this particular act of teen shenanigans. Since my memory of the police station is fleeting, the descriptions in these pages came from imagination. But hopefully my broader descriptions of Jackson Township and Farmersville law enforcement is a credit to Chief Schade.
I also want to thank Chris Brown, who provided on-site research and many helpful photos of contemporary Farmersville. These images not only reinforced my memories, but showed how much the town has both changed and—in some ways—remained remarkably familiar. To the extent the Farmersville area in these pages fails to match reality, the blame lies with me. Chalk it up to author’s license, author’s impertinence or author’s error. But wherever I got it right, it’s thanks to Chief Schade and Chris.
Thanks go to Dr. Steven Seres provided valuable medical information. If I made medical errors in these pages, they’re all one me.
Courtney Summers, amazing author of young adult novels, read and commented on an early draft of Ruby Jane’s story. Her books are brilliant, and her insight into the minds of young women was a great help.
Thanks as always go out to Janet Reid for her hard work on my behalf—I raise a shot, nay, a bottle of whisky in your honor. And to Meredith Barnes, Fine Print Godsend Extraordinaire, thanks for your energy and kooky creativity.
Thank you to Tyrus Books publisher Ben LeRoy and editor Alison Janssen for continuing to believe in me and in the adventures of Skin and Ruby Jane. I remain humbled to be part of the of Tyrus family.
As always, Brett Battles, Rob Browne, Tasha Alexander, Andrew Grant, and Kelli Stanley—friends and fellow writers—are there to help me stay (relatively) sane. I don’t know what I’d do without you.
I thank my good friends and fellow writers Candace Clark, Andy Fort, Corissa Neufeldt, and Theresa Snyder, who read County Line in progress and offered invaluable critiques.
And last, but not least, I thank my lovely wife Jill, who makes me sleep in the backyard when I kill off her favorite characters, but loves me anyway.