I just received my first copy of The Most Important Thing [Candlewick Press]. Though it is my seventy-fifth book, it’s always an exciting moment.
Perhaps you have heard of publishing parties, a celebration of the publication of a book. In all my years of publication, I have had only one such party. It was in 1984 and it was for my fourteenth book, Devil’s Race, published by Lippincott, a publisher that no longer exists. It may have been my only such party but it was most unusual.
Devil’s Race is a ghost story, and tells the tale of a boy who has an evil alter-ego who is pursuing him, trying to take him over. The boy’s name is John Proud. Ultimately, John must embrace his evil half to conquer him. Simple stuff. But fun.
The idea for the story came about when I was a member of a Pennsylvania back-packing club. One of the places we often camped was a state forest park called “St. Anthony’s Wilderness,” a most wonderful name, and a most fascinating place. In the 18th and 19th century it had been populated. Now, all that remains in the forest are ruins. And an abandoned cemetery.
In that cemetery there was a lopsided stone that caught my attention. It read, “RIP John Proud.”
Hence my idea for the story (it is set in St. Anthony’s Wilderness) and my protagonist’s name.
Some friends in that backpacking group learned that I was publishing the book and said we must have a book publishing party. So we did, each of us packing in a small bottle of champagne. Thus we hiked into St. Anthony’s Wilderness, and sat around John Proud’s stone, drank a toast to his soul, and to my new book.
My only book publishing party, but a memorable one. I hope it made John Proud, well, proud.