What I learned: Chasing Fireflies by Charles Martin

Charles Martin’s greatest strength may be in his ability to create setting. The first book I read of his was “When Crickets Cry” and one of the reasons I enjoyed it was imagining Lake Burton, GA where the story took place. I’ve since read “The Mountain Between Us,” “Where the River Ends,” “The Dead Don’t Dance,” and most recently “Chasing Fireflies.” Set in Brunswick, GA, his accurate and artful descriptions had me remembering my trips to the area and immersing myself deep into the story.

Of the five I’ve read this one is my favorite. But it made me jealous. You see, when I finished I realized he wrote the novel I wanted to write. Not exactly of course, but in essence his is one I would be proud to call mine.

It’s a story that’s gripping, but more importantly it’s a story that matters, and I want my writing to be similar.

He explores the questions sons have about fathers, and the fears men hide about having sons. These are issues that are of paramount importance to me and to our culture.

He spotlights one of our worlds greatest expressions of love, adoption. And he also reveals the painful, shattered experience so many have being bounced around in foster homes. This is an issue close to my wife and I, and something I believe in with every bit of me.

The main character could easily have been one of mine. He was a writer, he loved the Atlanta Braves and fondly recalled “The Slide,” and he graduated from Florida State University. Charles will have to forgive me if one of my characters bears a striking resemblance.

The story is set in Georgia. I’m from the Peach State and might place a story there one day. But I’ve spent a great deal of my life in north Florida and might drop some characters on the Atlantic coast, under some sprawling Live Oaks, or on the Gulf’s white sands.

After dealing with, or maybe still in spite of, my admiration filled jealousy I was able to consider what this reading experience taught me. I was reminded it’s okay to write from what you know personally. It seems like there’s a whole lot of Charles in each of his novels, and that’s cool. Like a subtle but ornate frame, I learned the setting accentuates the depth and beauty of a story’s characters, and to neglect the setting is to steal.

I’m glad he wrote Chasing Fireflies and I hope you will read it. I just  wish I’d written it first. If I ever do get around to penning a novel, I hope it’s like this one – enthralling and important.

Keep Discovering Writing.

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