As a writer, director, and producer for the Emmy Award Winning Discovering Alabama public television series, I’ve spent many years exploring the wonders of the natural world with series Creator and Host, Dr. Doug Phillips. When my son, Ben, was in the sixth grade, it occurred to me that this world would make a great setting for a novel. I had just finished two television shows on the longleaf forest and felt like this would be the perfect location to begin the adventures of Jason Caldwell. At the time I had been writing for TV for about 20 years but had never attempted a novel. I would write a chapter and then share it with my daughter, Emily, who was then in the fourth grade. If, after reading the chapter, Emily wanted to know more, I would write another chapter. This process continued for the 37 chapters that make up the novel Longleaf.
Even as I was working on Longleaf, I realized I wanted to continue the exploits of Jason Caldwell. The second novel, Space, is set at the Conrad Swanson Observatory in my hometown of Huntsville, Alabama. When I was Jason’s age, my lifelong friend, Carlton, and I spent many nights at this same observatory.
My latest novel, Time, came from a few simple ideas. In 2005, we did a TV show on “one of the most significant carboniferous era fossil trackways sites in the world” (say that three time fast). I thought then that this would be a great setting for another Jason Caldwell adventure. After reading a newspaper article about people stealing and selling fossils, I realized there was a place for the bad guys—even at a fossil site.
Where will Jason’s adventures take him next? Right now I’m working on a story that is set in a swamp. It’s a big swamp with oversized alligators, snakes, and wild hogs. I’ve spent a lot of time canoeing and kayaking in this swamp. At night the trees are filled with an almost deafening sound of howling owls.
Do you have a suggestion for a location for one of Jason’s adventures? I’d love to hear it. Just click on the Contact page and send me a note.