What Comes First? Character Or Story?
This is one of the classic writer questions, right? It is the literary equivalent of the chicken or the egg paradox. With some stories (or some writers) you can read their inspiration clearly. With Strange Air characters, however, I have found it’s usually a collision of the two elements.
Finding Jack Sibley was no different.
I knew I wanted to write a spin on the classic hunting story. William Faulkner wrote them. So did Ernest Hemmingway. I was also keenly aware that I didn’t want my rifle toting “man’s man” too confident or too obscure.
No, I wanted this tale to feel different. To accomplish that in The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest, I needed to land on a different mark entirely.
Who Is Jack Sibley?
Jack Sibley is the central character in The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest. He came to me as the best characters often do, in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle.
My first clue to this character’s identity came in the source of his trauma: The Korean War. We don’t even refer to this war as a war. Instead, we call it a “conflict” which is to me feels like an undermining of what happened over there.
The conflict that seems to sit awkwardly in between two larger, more historically glorified and vilified wars: World War II and Vietnam.
My second clue was more abstract. I thought back on all those old men who sit quietly in the bar, pint of yellow beer in hand and a far away stare.
We often carry around more than we let on. Jack Sibley is a storyteller, though, so I was motivated to write a story about a character who tells stories but keeps the most impactful story in his life hidden.
Well, mostly hidden.
My last clue to Jack came, oddly, after dropping in on the Mount Hood Model Engineers earlier this spring.
My son, Elijah, is into trains and down the steps and through the little door of the old group’s clubhouse, we found a room teeming with miniature railroad curiosities. As my fascinated four-year old son danced around the room following the trains though, I kept watch on the old-timers.
These guys were from a time long past. They were antiques themselves. Without celebrating them, I thought, they’ll be lost altogether.
What Happens On Bishop’s Rest?
My fascination with old west motifs is on display in this short novella. Jack hatches his plan for revenge and gets up to the mountains but what he finds there is something different. He finds a new way home.
When Jack faces off with The Lone Rider apparition, it changes him. Suddenly, the need for revenge twists and he sees things different.
The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest is, at core, a hunting story. If you read any of the great hunting stories in literature, there is usually a face off.
Man versus nature. Somehow the gun or the harpoon are never enough. Man must always overcome something else.
I think I put Jack Sibley through that ring. For Strange Air characters though, what they face off against is rarely what it seems.
Where Can I Get This Book?
One of my goals in writing The Meeting At Bishop’s Rest was to give it away to my readers. I wanted this to be an open door through which they could get to know some of my favorite Strange Air characters.
Jack Sibley returns in the series. He returns quite soon, in fact, telling another yarn.
That’s a different story for a different day.
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