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Story Behind the Story #48: Poppy’s Return

Poppy's ReturnI recall reading a piece by John D. MacDonald—the mystery writer—giving advice to anyone who wanted (as he did) to write a successful series. I believe he said one had to write a number of them before giving it a full commitment. He may have been correct, but when it came to writing my Poppy series, it was never intended to be a series, and it took me fourteen years to write.

1995—Poppy

1998—Poppy and Rye

1999—Ragweed

2000—Ereth’s Birthday

2005—Poppy’s Return

2009—Poppy and Ereth

And whereas in the series, as it currently stands, Ragweed is the first in the series, it was the third book written.

I can imagine if one did not enjoy the characters, writing a series would be painful work. In my case, I have always loved working with these characters, and loved to write about them. In part I think of them as family, and they are indeed full of references to my own family, though it might be hard for anyone (outside) to connect the dots.

Poppy’s Return is no exception. It was written when my youngest son was a teenager, and reflects, in content and story, the stress of those many moments. But it also reflects (and narrates) my conflicts with my own father when I was a teenager and tries to acknowledge the continuity—generation by generation—of such domestic skirmishes.

All the books in the series were illustrated by Brian Floca. He did them so well, that although I invented these characters, I now visualize them as Brian drew them. Indeed, in the whole series perhaps the most extraordinary illustration appears on pages 202-203. It should have been a double page, full page-spread, but even so it’s quite wonderful.

Now if you know the series, you may have realized there is a gap in the full narrative. I won’t say what it is, but suffice it to say, I am working on filling that gap right now. And Brian will come along for the ride—at least with his pencil, which is good enough for me.

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