Story Behind the Story #7:
Encounter at Easton

At the end of my book, Night Journeys, the two runaway indentured servants, Elizabeth Mawes and Robert Linnly, manage to escape, and flee north. True, Elizabeth was wounded, but she was free, and the protagonist of the book, young Peter York, comes to an understanding with his master, the pious Quaker Mr. Shinn.

But then something happened in my head once the book had been completed: I began to worry about the fate of those two young people. Were they truly free? Did Elizabeth survive her wound? Where did they go?

Easton, PAIn short, I had created fictional characters who had become so real to me that I wanted to know what happened to them. I even did some research about the area to which they presumptively would have fled, Easton, Pennsylvania. In so doing I learned about an outcast woman who, in Colonial times, lived in a cave in the woods near Euston.

I am not one who dreams much, or at least, I don’t remember my dreams very well. Nonetheless, one night at that time I had a dream which, as it were, informed me what had happened to my young characters in Night Journeys. That is to say, I dreamed the whole plot of Encounter at Easton.

Encounter at EastonWith that gift in hand (and mind) I wrote the book. It is the only time I have ever dreamed a book.

One curious aspect of the book’s publication was that from the time I first started to write it, until I had the published book in my hand, it took only eleven months. Never before or since have I published a book so quickly. The normal publication time is at least twice that length.

Another odd thing about the book: When it was done, I realized that the boy in the story, Robert Linnly, could have easily become the main character in an earlier book, Captain Grey. All that was required was to make a few changes in Captain Grey when that book was reprinted. Thus I created a series of four books, but, alas, I never wrote what should be book number three.

That’s the trouble with dreams: you wake up.

Encounter at Easton went on to win the Christopher Award for that year.