In honor of the recent round of comments and questions about Dragonfly (see the previous post for some wonderful stories of how readers first encountered the book), I wanted to give you a few more glimpses into the book’s origins. In a long-ago post (still available for reading/viewing on this blog) called “Dragonfly: The Commentary Track,” I posted a couple photos of the “Dragonfly Grove” at Niigata University — the little grove of trees under which I had the first concrete sparks of the idea for the novel. But of course, the book began to percolate long before that. As Tolkien wrote: “[A book such as The Lord of the Rings] grows like a seed in the dark, out of the leaf-mould of the mind.” The “mould” of fallen autumn leaves that produced Dragonfly lies back across the decades in the little prairie town of Taylorville, Illinois, where I grew up.
Taylorville is the seat of Christian County. Here's the famous courthouse. This is the angle from which I most frequently saw it, from the corner nearest our family's bookstore.
In the book’s opening chapter, the eponymous main character, Dragonfly, walks down an alley after a school open house. That alley was based directly on the alley I walked down every afternoon, after school, to get to our bookstore.
The DRAGONFLY alley, looking west. The section I frequented runs from the offices of our local daily paper, the Taylorville BREEZE-COURIER, straight to the back door of our old bookstore, The Book Center.
In that chapter, Dragonfly encounters mysterious figures lurking near the back entrance of the bank.
The name of this bank has changed many times, but in my childhood it was the First Trust and Savings. This is where the mysterious strangers in Chapter One of DRAGONFLY lurked.
Dragonfly’s Uncle Henry owns and operates a funeral home. From the back door of our bookstore, I could see Shafer’s Funeral Home. I remember the visitation for my Grandma Emma there. That experience features largely in the part of the book in which Willie is captured by the denizens of Harvest Moon. I was picturing the interior of Shafer’s.
Shafer's Funeral Home is in downtown Taylorville; Uncle Henry's is more at the outskirts of town, next to a millet field.
Can you picture a jack-o'-lantern aglow in every window?
Here's the building in which we had our bookstore. I had forgotten how steeply-sloped the street is!
The Book Center in May of 1970. Along that left-hand wall, I made the discoveries of H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Richard Adams.
The white storefront was our bookstore. Eddy's Studio was next-door on the left, a photographic studio and camera shop.
And Eddy is the guy who took these pictures of me, right behind our store. I'm leaning on the hood of Mom's car. This would be in about the era that my head was full of The Planet of the Apes, soon to give way to Jaws.
This photo was taken by Phil Jacobs for the DECATUR HERALD & REVIEW in the summer that DRAGONFLY was first published by Arkham House, 1999. Mr. Jacobs chose our old chickenhouse as the background.
This was taken in Tokyo's Kinokuniya Bookstore, when the Ace edition of DRAGONFLY was on the shelves there. I was excited!
Since I'm throwing pictures of me around, here's my favorite fairly recent one. This was taken in the summer of 2009, I believe.
This photo by Chris was taken in 1979. That is not my bicycle. (I wish I could claim the clothes weren't mine, either.)