For years–no, decades–I've wanted to recreate my fictional New Hampshire town of Darby visually, but I lacked the drawing and painting skills for such an undertaking. Then along came digital tools and slowly I've taught myself to draw on the computer. Sorta. What I had in mind at the start was the idea that the fiction I wrote, the text, would lead to the imagery I would create. What I didn't expect was that sometimes the imagery would lead to text. So it was with Darby's motto, "Town Meeting Spirit 1753 to Doomsday," which I did not come up with until after I had completed the final draft of Howard Elman's Farewell.
My book had been accepted by University Press of New England, and the Press had also agreed to publish new editions of the previous six novels. I'd been working hard to create this scenario for a decade, so I was ecstatic to get the news from Michael Burton, director of the press. Thanks, Mike. Now it struck me that I ought to create a map of Darby, which I did, drawing it in Adobe Illustrator. After a lot of fiddling to produce all the info in the format of a book page, I thought the map still lacked something. It needed a graphic to unify all seven books. It was that thought that led me to the idea of drawing a road sign, based on the familiar Welcome to New Hampshire/ Bienvenue signs that you see everywhere in my state. I loved putting the French word in because it echoed my French-Canadian heritage. But when I looked at my drawing I could see it was still missing something specific about Darby.
I decided I need to write a few words that would represent the town, a motto. The idea was on my mind the day I attended a talk about demographics of my own town, Westmoreland, NH. The speaker was Richard High, a neighbor, friend and very smart guy. Through his study, Richard showed that early settlements in Westmoreland and no doubt other towns on then frontier in our area were dominated by young adults and children–many children.
The talk left me with the possibility of future fictions. I began to muse over the notion of writing a faux history of Darby. I asked myself what's the one big theme that identifies a New England town distinct from towns elsewhere. The answer was obvious–town meeting. That led me to the phrase "Town meeting spirit". Then doodling on a handwriting app on my iPad I came up with "Town Meeting Spirit 1753 to 2013."
I didn't like the way the phrase looked on the page, nor the "2013" figure since that would change year by year. I thought some more until the plot line of my new book popped into my head. One of the major subplots involved a video game that I called Darby Doomsday. In fact, one of the working titles for Howard Elman's Farewell was Darby Doomsday. From there the tumblers in my head fell into place and I had Darby's motto, Town Meeting Spirit 1753 to Doomsday.