Trip to the Quiet Room (also known as Butterfly, or William Murphy’s Trip to the Quiet Room) started as an in-betweener project (I’ve talked about this before). I had finished the first draft of a novel called, tentatively, Rudyard Kipling’s Chair. It was a tangle of stories about a vast underground black market of goods operating in plain sight at a popular homewares store, a group of cat’s eye enthusiasts, ostensible whalers, coffee farmers, a library theoretician, the cutthroat world of publishing, a band of misfits aboard a suspicious cargo ship, and a solo trip across the Atlantic in a 30 foot ketch.
I finished the first draft in February, 2011, put it aside to let it marinate in its own juices, and started the project that would become Trip to the Quiet Room. In between drafts of that book I picked up RKC again, and it currently lies on the operating table, innards spilt all over the floor, walls, probably ceiling. Like I said, it has a tangle of stories, some of which survived the extraction surgery, some of which didn’t. It probably won’t walk again, and if it does it’ll most certainly have a limp.
One of the core sparks of inspiration behind the story was the story of my great uncle Carl Jackson, who, in June, 1978, set sail in a 30 foot ketch, by himself, across the Atlantic. I’m reasonably certain he knew about airplanes and about boats that were much bigger and also piloted by someone else. He was a librarian (Dean of Libraries, Indiana University, Bloomington, amongst other positions) and published a log of his journey, called The Log of the Carla Mia: Being an account of a single-handed passage across the Atlantic Ocean in a thirty-foot auxiliary ketch in the summer of nineteen seventy-eight.
I had heard the story of his trip across the Atlantic (and its companion trip back from Europe to America that didn’t succeed) a few times, and that alone was inspiration enough to start off a story about a man who would leave the eastern shores behind, headed for Europe, but maybe without that clear intent. While I wrote the book I got to read the manuscript of Carl’s (the privileges of being in an internationally renowned literary family) account, editing notes and all.
It’s a fascinating story to read; the daily routines of attempting to sail yourself across the Atlantic, the descriptions of a life at sea and a lot of tension (despite the fact that you can guess he made it safely, if we’re reading his manuscript account of the trip). It was a much different account than I’d expected and while the structure of that story was much, much, much different than the roiling sea of storylines that made up RKC, I think I still pulled some great maritime details that made the practicalities of living at sea for a short time.
But the point of all of this is that another relation of Carl Jackson’s (and mine, by extension), Mike Potter, has created a map of all the locations marked in The Log of the Carla Mia: Being an account of a single-handed passage across the Atlantic Ocean in a thirty-foot auxiliary ketch in the summer of nineteen seventy-eight, so you can feel the trip in pretty intimate detail, watch where things start to unravel, and where he finally ends up. You can check it out here (I think):
or you can view it here: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=z0IKvfUTkxUw.kY86wO72CgOc