One time at the University of Colorado, at a faculty dinner, this professor said to me, 'Well, my goodness, a boy from Appa-lay-chee-a with a Ph.D!' The dinner was in her house. And I said, 'My grandparents didn't have indoor plumbing, but they had more books in their house than you do.' I was a little insulted by the Appa-lay-chee-a business.
I've always thought Harper Lee might have made a great decision. Much as you'd like to have more books by her, there's something about just one that's kind of mysterious and nice. On the other hand, the New York gossip about me was that I'd never write another book. So I thought, 'Well, I will then.'
While writing 'Cold Mountain,' I held maps of two geographies, two worlds, in my mind as I wrote. One was an early map of North Carolina. Overlaying it, though, was an imagined map of the landscape Jack travels in the southern Appalachian folktales. He's much the same Jack who climbs the beanstalk, vulnerable and clever and opportunistic.