`Now that I’ve completed the writing of The Secrets of Clayton County and published the third and final novel, I sit here drinking my morning coffee reflecting on what it all means. Why did I choose “secrets” for the title? And, if there are secrets, what are they? If you haven’t read the story yet, let me share my feelings about this question and how it evolved during the writing of a Trilogy.
All people have secrets, don’t you think? Those things in our past that we keep covered up with a quilt so that people look at the beautiful squares forming a perfect pattern on top, instead of what might be hidden underneath. I know I do; a few even my wife doesn’t know, either because they are so bad or very embarrassing. It should be easier to hide secret information about yourself in a big city like Chicago than a small town of 1900 people, wouldn’t it? Then how have Kent and Warren gotten away with it for years? Kent’s secret is right under the resident’s noses, while almost everyone in the community has outlived Warren’s secret. Even Ralph, Kent’s Scottish terrier has a secret. How can a dog have a secret? Yet, really, he does!
Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble. In the early, 70’s Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock, promoting the theme that information was doubling faster and faster. He felt it doubled every three years at that time. Toffler also depicted a modular lifestyle where we all lived in our own bubble. Is that possible? Do you see that? The Secrets of Clayton County, a trilogy of novels, draws a similar contrast – between two lifestyles.
In the big city, Sarah drove her new car on freeways guided by her GPS while talking on her hands-free phone. In contrast…
- If you want to go somewhere in Clayton – you can walk.
- If you’re unsure where you’re going – you can knock on a door and ask a neighbor.
- If you’re seeking out someone to talk to – the men stop by the barbershop and the women all go to Wilma’s café.
It’s a wonderful life, and you don’t even have to remember to charge your batteries!
Our modern society allows us to live in our own protective bubble. We should be safe, shouldn’t we? Then why do our family members carry a cell phone with “location” activated so we know where everyone is at all times? In a small town like Clayton, parents turn the kids loose with orders to be home before dark. OMG! Who would do that in a metropolitan area? It happens in Clayton. Why… three-year-old Wendy just walked off and left her mother at the street corner talking with Betty Bendenhoff. Her dog, Ralph, tailed her, and when Adel Adams saw Wendy all alone, she invited the blonde-headed eager child to join her on the porch swing, keeping Wendy safe.
Not to worry… you’ve heard the phrase “It takes A Village” haven’t you? Well, in Clayton the kids are free to use their imagination to create minor mischief, as long as it doesn’t harm people or property. But let them get out of line, and they can get disciplined before they ever see their parents. Discipline could come from the owner of the café or the local barber. And, sometimes the locals are harsher than mom or dad, like the day two mischievous kids “agreed” to paint the dentist’s fishing boat, rather than be turned over to the sheriff for stealing.
The opposite is true as well. We read about Norm helping Teddy skate out from under his father’s scrutiny, and Sheriff J.R. Norvus relieving a little girl of her punishing walk home – by giving her and her slimy fish a ride while she played with his siren and flashing lights.
The secrets I envisioned as I wrote each section of the trilogy weren’t just the juicy personal tidbits we all carry with us. I wanted to portray the lifestyle of peace, trust, and tranquility many of us have left behind. If you’ve never had that quality lifestyle, this story will make you long for it; you don’t have to move to reflect it in your life.
I also wanted to share the secret of a culture; one of trust, even if it involves a stranger in your local coffee shop… perhaps taking a moment to offer help to someone in need, or provide support to someone needing it. The ultimate secret is a culture where it is natural to reach out to a mother, a child, or an older person whose frailty causes him to move too slowly across a busy street.
“Where is this place? I want to move there,” wrote one reader.
The answer is that you don’t have to move to enjoy the secrets of Clayton County. You can apply them in your life today. Right where you are.
If you want to learn more, read the trilogy, The Secrets of Clayton County, and meet the wonderful characters that make it come alive… you can start with Book #1 here~
Don Wooldridge | Author