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My Writer's Journal

Behind the Books: The True Adventures of Charley Darwin

I knew it was a risk, for several reasons. I had taken a break from writing about royalty with books about a dancer who modeled for a well-known painter (MARIE, DANCING), the wife of the most famous playwright in the English language (LOVING WILL SHAKESPEARE), and the sister of one of the world best-known composers (IN MOZART'S SHADOW). So--why not a book about a male character and a scientist whose theories are still for some reason controversial? What about a novel about that scientist--not as an old man with a long, white beard, but as a boy interested in rocks and birds' eggs who discovers his passion and becomes a great natural scientist?

Why not write a book about CHARLEY DARWIN?

And what a character Charley turned out to be! He was bored silly with school but curious about the world. His father despaired that he would ever amount to anything and would be a lasting disgrace to his family. He fell hopelessly in love with a girl who had other things was not much interested in a man with no profession in mind. He embarked on a sea voyage that was supposed to last for two years and went on for five. He collected so much stuff that nobody knew what to do with it all.

I visited the Darwin home in Shrewsbury, England, the school that he disliked so much, and the home of the girl who wouldn't wait for him. I wish I could have followed his sea route around the world, but that was beyond me. I think I fell a little bit in love with Charley, and I certainly loved writing about him.

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