I’m often interested in stories of
people in American history that don’t get recorded–under the radar stories
about the experiences that don’t get covered typically in history books.
Sometimes it’s a subculture, sometimes it’s a movement that doesn’t get
recognized. And often it involves people who never told their stories at the time. My first book, Ginseng the Divine Root,
was about a subculture of this plant that through its history of over 200
years being traded to the Far East had this subculture from Appalachia to
herbalists in the cities to China, and the connections that I didn’t expect and
that many people who read the story had never thought. I’ve always been fascinated by forests
and by how people relate to them. My first job was as an editor with forestry research. And it was fascinating to see how people’s experiences with the
forest went back in many different ways. Typically you think of our
relationship to the environment as positive, in warm terms. But I was also
interested in how sometimes the connection might go in the other
direction too and be a source of conflict. Cork Wars starts with a factory
fire in Baltimore on the eve of World War Two and it unfolds through the war in
the experience of families and an industry that suddenly got turned over
by this fire and what it may have met for national security.
So we see ordinary people getting drawn in extraordinary ways into the
war, and what they experienced and how that unfolded.