A chat with Jon Buchan, author of 'Code of the Forest'

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comMarch 21, 2013 

Name: Jon Buchan

Book: "Code of the Forest"

Residence: Charlotte

Publisher: Joggling Board Press in Charleston

Where to buy: Beaufort Bookstore, www.jogglingboardpress.com, www.amazon.com, www.barnesandnoble.com

Plot summary in 50 words or less: A powerful South Carolina senator threatens to take down publisher Wade McNabb's newspaper after a story exposes high-level political corruption. To fend off the threat, McNabb forms an uneasy relationship with young lawyer Kate Stewart, who has recently come to the small town.

First sentence: "Senator Buck Ravenel hunkered in the chill of the Lowcountry dawn, pondering ducks and politics."

Previous experience: Buchan was part of a wave of young reporters entering the business in the Watergate era interested in investigative reporting. After graduating from college, Buchan returned to his native South Carolina and helped start an alternative weekly newspaper in Columbia called Osceola. He moved on to the Columbia bureau at the Charlotte Observer. After three years in journalism, he went to law school at Duke University, intending to go back into the industry but instead started work as a lawyer representing newspapers and broadcasters. The N.C. Press Association awarded him the William C. Lassiter First Amendment Award in 2000.

Early influences: Buchan credits his family for much of the inspiration of the book. He even uses bits and phrases taken from family. His aunt Clara was fond of the phrase "journey proud," a term she used when the young Buchan was too excited to sleep before a big trip. "I come from a culture of storytellers," he said.

What prompted the novel: "Code of the Forest," his first novel, is the culmination of his life experiences, seeing inside the worlds of journalism, politics and law. It also touches on his upbringing in the small town of Mullins in a racially divided era.

Why he writes: It isn't about making money. It isn't about fame or awards (even though he's a finalist for ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award in the Literary Adult Fiction category). It isn't even really about gathering a loyal following. It's about passing on a story. "I wanted my children and grandchildren to understand the cultures that shaped me," he said.

The writing process: He started in 2003, taking about three years to get the story down. The biggest hurdle was just finding the time in his busy schedule to finish.

Writers to admire: Tom Wolfe for his blend of journalism and fiction; Wendell Berry, an underrated Kentucky writer; and Robert Penn Warren, author of "All the King's Men," which Buchan calls the greatest American novel.


Jon Buchan

Joggling Board Press

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