by Joseph Caldwell
Bestselling author of The Pig Trilogy
The Pig books are the most light-hearted of all my books. I would not have written them if the AIDS epidemic had never happened. As a volunteer at Saint Vincent’s hospital in New York City, I helped take care of many people who were ill with the disease. I had many friends who died.
As a result of the dark mood of the epidemic, I published a novel called Bread for the Baker’s Child about a nun in Chicago who taught for a year at a school razed by a fire that killed 67 children. After that book was published I thought to myself, “I can’t get any darker than this. I need to write something lighter.”
And then I remembered the story of a friend of mine who had visited Ireland. He was driving on “the wrong side of the road” and at one point, several teenagers were riding on bicycles in the opposite direction. Each one who passed him yelled, “Pigs!Pigs!Pigs!” He thought ‘that’s not very nice. The Irish are supposed to be hospitable.’ He kept driving and soon came upon the astonishing sight of the entire two-lane roadway swarming with pigs. And so, now realizing the kids were trying to warn him, he stopped.
It suddenly occurred to me that I could write a novel about somebody visiting Ireland who drives down the road and encounters a flock of pigs. All but one pig are eventually herded into the back of a truck. And the one remaining pig stares down the man who ends up chasing the pig up a hill. When he comes back down, all the other pigs are gone. The man and the pig get thrown together and the novel takes off from there.
My imagination is the arbiter of what I can write and what I cannot write. If I get an idea and present it to my imagination, my imagination will let me know pretty quickly if the idea will fly. In the case of the pig books, my imagination was so activated that the twists and turns of the plot were waiting to reveal themselves to me. And yet when I wrote the first one I had no idea there would be the second one. And when I wrote the second one I had no idea that there would be a third one.
My grandparents were born in Ireland and this fueled my imagination. Irish-Americans are more Irish than the Irish in terms of our Irish nationalism. American Irish are also more resentful of the 400 years of what they consider to be England’s criminal treatment of the Irish. And so when I was writing the pig books, I got my licks in for those 400 years. In fact, Kitty McCloud, one of the main characters in The Pig Trilogy offers incontrovertible proof that Shakespeare was Irish.
You may also be interested in this blog post: What Makes a Bestseller