Benjamin Percy is the Minnesota Author in the Spotlight for the month of May and he has written a guest post about The Dead Lands and its origins. If you love History ( ah, you should love history) then this post will interest you. I think I need to travel to Oregon someday and visit the places Percy talks about in his post. In a unrelated note, I'm traveling to Berlin tomorrow. Happy Dance.
The Rest is History
I always wanted to write about Lewis and Clark. I grew up at the end of the trail—Oregon—where Fort Clatsop is, where the bicentennial was held, where so many statues and landmarks note the heroism and travails of the expedition.
My mother is a hobby historian. When I turned twelve, she gave me their journals as a gift, inscribed with the message “Seek adventure.” And every time we headed off to some canyon or mountainside on a weekend adventure—camping, hiking, fishing, hunting—she would make sure we paused to recognize this as the place where Lewis sneezed or Sacagawea voted or Clark shot a bear or whatever.
It was ingrained in me. The belief that theirs was the greatest adventure story in American history.
Initially I thought I would write a nonfiction account of their journey—by recreating it. I would paddle, pedal, hike my way from St. Louis to Astoria. And bring different people—friends, family—with me along the way.
A publisher caught wind of this and bid on the project as part of a deal for my previous novel, Red Moon. For whatever reason, I had neglected to mention the idea to my wife. We sat down and figured out how long the mission would take and how much it would cost and she very reasonably said, “That ain’t happening.”
So I decided to make some stuff up instead. I debated the possibility of a historical novel, but that’s been done and Ezra Pound’s charge to the writer is “Make it new.”
I made it new. Post-apocalyptic Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark 2.0.
So here they are hoping to reunite the states, build a new American. A post-apocalyptic wasteland felt like the right move, the best way to make the material new and relevant and perilous once more, not so far off from the way the expedition must have felt when setting off into untold wonders and horrors.
Benjamin Percy’s new novel is the The Dead Lands. He writes the Green Arrow series for DC Comics. His original television series Black Gold – a modern-day western set in the North Dakota oil fields – is in development with Starz. He is a contributing editor at Esquire. Follow him on Twitter at Benjamin_Percy and learn more about him at www.benjaminpercy.com
If you would like to win a copy of Benjamin Percy's book The Dead Lands, please click here: The Dead Lands Giveaway