What does a guy do when his best friend starts doing things that are completely out of character? In the case of Luke McAllister, you can’t do anything – until you figure out exactly what it is that is different.
The fact that his best friend is a girl complicates matters a heap. Nothing makes sense when RaeNell Stephens, the girl that has “the best curve ball he’s ever seen”, starts blushing and acting like a durned female. All of this at the beginning of the ‘summer to end all summers’ too. This is the summer that Luke, RaeNell, and their friend Farley Midkiff set out to locate, and cash in on a rogue Civil War soldier’s stolen one million dollar Union payroll.
Undaunted by thousands of scholars and fortune seekers having looked unsuccessfully for the treasure for a hundred years, the three twelve-year-old friends search diligently for themselves. What they find is an adventure that leads them on a spiraling path of discovery.
They discover newness in themselves, their families, and the closeness of a small southern community in the process. Luke wrestles with his morality, ethics, and his slowly emerging awareness of the difference between boys and girls. He also discovers that his late father left him an incredibly large legacy of duty, fidelity and caring for those around him.
The telling of the story takes place in imaginary New Caledonia County, NC in 1966. The deep rural traditions, vernacular, and ways of life of the region and community are portrayed in great detail as the story unfolds.
This is an adventure story, but it is also a story about making good decisions whether you want to or not… It is also a story of relationships. Family and community are underscored, but there is an underlying theme of male/female relationships. It’s really okay for boys and girls to be buddies without always having to be boyfriends and girlfriends. It is also a story about innocence. NOT innocence lost, but innocence maintained.
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Welcome to Between the Covers! Why was writing The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton so important to you?
Up front it wasn’t so important for me to write the book. I didn’t plan it. It came about as an exercise for writer’s block, and it just blossomed from there. It was a case of pure serendipity. I call it my “accidental novel”.
Once it was begun though, it became a consuming passion for me to get it to people to read. I have written a number of novels that I have attempted to get published, but they remain in the bottom desk drawer. I really wanted this one published, and I spent years getting it done.
What was the experience like writing The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton?
I was having difficulty with a detective novel I was writing. I keep a writer’s block notebook in my computer’s tray to jot notes, or anything else that comes up while working on a project. During the process I wrote a line in the block notebook that said: “My whole life changed the summer that RaeNell Stephens started growing up.” It was just a line that really didn’t mean much at the time.
As the days went by, the detective novel became more difficult. I would pull up the block notebook and add a line or two to that original line about growing up.
There were a number of empty paragraphs in the block notebook just sitting there minding their own business, when suddenly one afternoon RaeNell woke up, and a storyline blossomed. In a rush of inspiration, I wrote The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton, bending over the keyboard, and finishing banging out the forty-thousand words in a bit over forty-eight hours.
To this day I couldn’t accurately tell you where the storyline came from. It wasn’t written, as much as it just coalesced.
I knew I wanted to tell the story, but I also wanted to say that it’s okay for boys and girls to be buddies without having to be boyfriends and girlfriends. I wanted it to be a simple story of kids having fun. It needed to be a story of innocence. Not innocence lost, but innocence maintained. It had to be a story of having to do the right thing, whether you wanted to or not. I also wanted it to be a book that adults would enjoy too.
After nearly fifteen years of editors, rejection slips, rebuffs, and simply being ignored, The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton was accepted for publication.
How did you come up with the title?
I would like to relate some cosmic vision, but the truth of the matter is The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton became the working title after an all-night session, and I had to name the computer file something. Later, as I wound down and finished the manuscript, I made a list of every title I could think of, and nothing else fit to my liking. So I kept it.
Can you tell us more about your main character?
Luke McAllister is a twelve-year-old boy that is on the cusp of growing up. His father was killed in an accident the year before, and his mother is still in grief mode. His grandfather is Luke’s strength, and his granny is his stabilizing force. His buddies are his escape. The search for Jerry Lee Thorton’s treasure is a grand adventure. It is also an opportunity to learn a few of life’s lessons.
What are his strengths and what are his weaknesses?
His strengths are a natural sense of leadership, and a very strong sense of right and wrong. He wrestles with right and wrong a lot as the story unfolds.
His weakness is to be expected. He’s twelve, and doesn’t have the life experiences to make the best of decisions.
Are there any supporting characters we need to know about?
Luke’s buddies are RaeNell Stephens and Farley Midkiff. The three refer to each other as “The Gang”. RaeNell, who has taught Luke a bunch of guy stuff, chooses to use this summer to discover that she is a girl. Luke notices too, and isn’t real sure he likes what this new dynamic brings to the treasure hunt. Farley has been Luke’s life-long friend forever. They think alike on most everything. Theirs’ is an easy, uncomplicated friendship that is rediscovered during the hunt.
Can you open to page 25 and tell us what’s happening?
Luke and RaeNell are in the massive New Caledonia Public Library doing research on the rogue Civil War soldier Jerry Lee Thorton. There is little written, and he has become a local enigma. Page 25 is where they discover and read a bit of Jerry Lee’s story.
What about page 65?
The kids are again back in the New Caledonia Public Library, arguing about whether there is in fact a map to Jerry Lee’s treasure. They were told that there was one, but they couldn’t find it anywhere. Page 65 is that loud argument, and being hushed by Miss Mary Heevy the Librarian. Miss Heevy tosses them out of the library for being too noisy, but not before she tells them that the map is in the history room over at the city building. It’s right beside RaNell’s daddy’s office, and has been there for years.
Now that The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton has been published, what is your next project?
The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton is the first of a series (maybe trilogy, maybe more). They will be all standalone stories, and the characters will all be different, but they all take place in fictitious New Caledonia County NC.
The next story is about a brother (12-years-old) and his little sister (10-years-old) that grow up in a very eccentric family of odd-balls and misfits. The sister is super intelligent, and the brother is pretty much just along for her ride. The working title for the book is Zonner Sigmon and the Knights of the Round Card Table.
Do you have anything else you’d like to tell our readers?
Just about anything you want to know about me, The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton or other esoteric miscellany is found at my website…
ABOUT MIKE THOMAS
Mike Thomas is a southern writer. He grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina where he learned a lot about family, traditions, and the genteel lifestyle most southerners enjoy. The richly eccentric folks of his youth have become his characters in today’s books and stories.
Mike began as a newswriter, editor, columnist, reporter, and speechwriter before switching to the role of Critical Care Registered Nurse. He traveled nearly every corner of the world as a vagabond contract nurse before resettling in North Carolina a few years ago.
He lives with Bobby, his desktop computer, and Rachel his laptop, in Halifax County, NC.
“That’s all I need,” He says, “Just my computers and a bit of focus. Then we can make up worlds we could only have dreamed of last week.”
You can visit him at www.mikethomas-writer.com
WATCH THE TRAILER!
The Mysterious Treasure of Jerry Lee Thorton Virtual Book Publicity Tour Schedule
Monday, August 5 – Book featured at Margay Leah Justice
Wednesday, August 7 – Book featured at Between the Pages
Friday, August 9 – Book featured at Book Marketing Buzz
Tuesday, August 13 – Guest blogging at Beauty in Ruins
Wednesday, August 14 – Guest blogging at The Writer’s Life
Friday, August 16 – Interviewed at Pump Up Your Book
Monday, August 19 – Book reviewed at Hezzi D’s Books and Cooks
Tuesday, August 20 – Guest blogging at The Story Behind the Book
Wednesday, August 21 – Guest blogging at Literarily Speaking
Friday, August 23 – Interviewed at Literal Exposure
Monday, August 26 – Book featured at Plug Your Book
Tuesday, August 27 – 1st chapter reveal at As the Pages Turn
Wednesday, August 28 – Interviewed at Between the Covers
Friday, August 30 – Interviewed at Review From Here