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Coming up with an idea for a book is like any other project. You want to make sure that if you put your blood and sweat into it, you’re creating a book others will find worth reading. I want to create books people will love. A carpenter does not simply order a pile of lumber and start nailing boards together. He creates a plan or hires an architect. In my early writing years, I wasted a good deal of time on story and book ideas that led to dead ends. I actually learned a lot from these forays, and frustration motivated me to become wiser. I want to only put time into books and stories that are unique enough to grab people’s attention.
When I came up with the idea to write a book on Norman Rockwell’s Vermont Models, I needed to know that I wasn’t on a fool’s errand. I read a dozen or so books on the artist. I was thrilled to see that no one had written an in-depth book based on those models’ recollections of posing, spending time in his home, and attending the same community activities.
I was excited when I realized that I could write a unique book with a substantial amount of new information. Other books focused on the artist’s childhood and his years in New Rochelle, New York or his final years in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In many books, I found the Arlington Saturday Evening Post paintings, such as The Four Freedoms, but only snippets on Norman and the personal lives of his models. I eventually interviewed almost thirty of them, and learned a ton of information not found in those other books. The models had posed decades earlier, but had insightful, intriguing stories to tell about their lives and life during WWII. The book will also tell you exactly how the artist operated, from sketching layouts, finding models and posing them, to completing the finished product. Finding excellent models that made his paintings genuine was the key to his success. This book emphasizes his dogged determination.
I was able to meet with his sons Thomas, Jarvis, and Peter a number of times. Beginning as small children, they had grown up with the models. The information they contributed as family members and models was invaluable. Thomas rarely gives interviews. I was fortunate that he agreed to chat with me as a member of our former Vermont community with many mutual friends. Both our favorite childhood days had been haying the fields along the Batten Kill and swimming under the red covered bridge that spans it.
Since I knew many of the models or their families, I already knew some their anecdotes, which made me all the eager to learn more. I was also fascinated to learn, and relate to my readers, the history of an American town from 1938 to 1953, which includes the WWII years. Setting is key for a book, and I know the area around Norman’s former studio intimately. It was my favorite childhood place. As I poured over photos of the Rockwell family in books, I saw them in the exact settings of my own childhood, such as on the Village Green near the white church and Grange Hall, just footsteps from Norman’s former home and studio across the dirt road. We were able to spend lots of time talking about topics such as the personalities of specific models and where Norman discovered them.
From the start I have believed in my book. I believe anyone who reads books will be well entertained and that artists and students will find it enlightening. Even Rockwell experts will find CALL ME NORMAN intriguing due to the extensive new material.