Avi WordCraft blog

Story Behind the Story #21:
The Man Who Was Poe

Sometimes book A leads to book B. Such was the case for The Man Who Was Poe.

My last post, about Something Upstairs, mentions how I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and how, once there, I began to read about local history.

Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe, daguerreotype taken in Providence, Rhode Island, by William Hartshorn, 1848. In the collection at the John Hay Library, Brown University Special Collections.

While doing that, I learned that Edgar Allan Poe had important connections to the city: he was trying to get married. Indeed, there is a photograph of him—often replicated—that was taken in Providence. The moment is part of the book.

When I first wrote Something Upstairs, which deals with time travel, I had my hero travel back to different moments of Providence history. At one such moment, he meets Poe. That multi-time plot structure however, did not work well, and I discarded the multiple times, and kept the story in one time zone.

Nevertheless, I had, so to speak, met Poe. Moreover, he was (is) fascinating.

Therefore, when Something Upstairs was completed, I turned to Poe. It was enormously helpful that many of the places that Poe visited when he was in Providence still stood. I could not just visit them, but walk the story almost in its entirety. You can, of course, still do that.

Odd fact #1. Part of the story involves a coded letter. Poe, who had been an editor, used printer’s marks for the code that appears in his book, The Gold Bug. I used the same code for an important moment in my book. When the printer of The Man Who is Poe saw that code, he thought it was gobbledy-gook, and stripped it from the book. I discovered this when looking at the first printing of the book. I called my editor (Richard Jackson) Stop press!

Edgar Allan Poe The Gold Bug code
Edgar Allan Poe’s code derived from printer’s marks for The Gold Bug

A new page had to be printed, and the entire first printing was recalled and had a new tipped in page with the correct code.

The Man Who Was PoeOdd Fact #2. By the time this project first was put together, I had become friends with the artist, David Macaulay, the illustrator and writer. A Providence resident, he was teaching illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. I asked him if he would do illustrations for The Man Who Was Poe.

Initially he agreed, but subsequently changed his mind. It is fun to think how the book would have looked if he had done the illustrations.

But never mind, Mr. Macaulay won’t disappear from these stories. Stay tuned.

1 thought on “Story Behind the Story #21:<br/><em>The Man Who Was Poe</em>”

  1. Wow! The story of what happened with the code for that first printing is hair-raising!

    I’m really enjoying reading this behind-the-scenes tales. Thanks for doing them.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: