Russ and Peg Hall, of Gainesville and Cedar Key, talked about their writing and their books at the Cedar Key Public Library on Thursday March 13.
Approaching retirement in 2005, they were looking for a plan. What would they do after leaving their jobs as a scientist for USGS and a professor of Public Relations at UF? How could they follow through on their interests and stick with them as long as they stayed intriguing. Going to Law School? . . . no. Breeding show dogs? . . . no. Writing books? . . . maybe.
Russ took the plunge first. Having been lured back to his hometown after a thirty year absence, he found that the community that had nurtured him and his sister had almost disappeared. The iron mine that supported the town had closed when the American steel industry succumbed to the global economy. Gem of the Adirondacks told the story of the mine and the company that built the community, and their ultimate demise. The second book was about the people, like him, who grew up in the community’s heyday. Most of his fellow 50 high school graduates had become successful professionals. How . . . why, did that happen? A second great story to discover and tell.
Peg joined in the writing adventure when theydiscovered American artisan cheese. While Russ researched the history of cheese, she focused on interviewing artisan cheese makers and the cheesemongers who sell it.
When they weren’t writing they were walking, and their most recent book is a novel, Second Wind on the Way of St. James. It tells the story of old friends, at the age when the successes and failures of career and family are mostly behind them and questions about what comes next are looming. Together they walk 500 miles across Spain on the Way of St. James, unsure of what they are seeking and yet hoping to find some answers. Working together, the authors chose sections each most wanted to tell and took responsibility for those parts, editing and polishing each other’s drafts.
The 30-minute presentation led to a wide-ranging discussion among the more than 40 attendees, who were curious about walking the Way of St. James, publishing books, co-authoring, and living with the Second Wind characters after the book went to press.