Back in the year 2000, Carson and I were living humble, impoverished lives in a warehouse in Portland, Oregon. I was thinking about starting a new band; Carson was doing oil paintings and selling them at fire-sale prices. We were kindred spirits. Since we’d met in college a few years prior, we discovered that our creative sensibilities lined up perfectly. Carson had done flyers for my college band. I sometimes suggested subjects for her paintings. We were looking for some way to create a real collaboration.
We started working on a story.
It would be an illustrated novel, we decided, and it would be for kids. It would be epic in scope. A war-torn world that existed, somehow, out of time. A young protagonist, searching for a lost relative. A mechanical boy-prince, whose resurrection and subsequent death was the ultimate cause for the heartbreak of a nation and, perhaps, the madness of his bereft parents.
We called it "How Ruthie Ended the War." I wrote 80 pages and Carson sketched many drawings. Then I started a band called the Decemberists and began touring the country and eventually the world. Carson began illustrating other authors' books—while also providing all of the art for the band's record covers and T-shirts and website. We spent the next ten years being too busy to think about the project and it was abandoned.
A few years ago, however, we decided that maybe the time was right to revisit the bones of that old story and see if we could breathe life back into it. We’d recently moved just outside of town to a little neighborhood notched into Forest Park, a 5,000-acre tract of woods on the edge of Portland. We spent a lot of time wandering its many trails. The otherworldly nature of the park’s deeply forested hills—made more so because of its proximity to downtown Portland—set my imagination abuzz. What if it were its own secret country, populated by a diverse and strange people? The books I loved growing up often used settings that were familiar to the reader, but were wonderfully distorted through the lens of the author’s imagination—a country house in England with a mysterious wardrobe, a re-imagined Florida in which the citizens of the state are born with magic talents. I wondered what sort of world could be created within the borders of this beautiful, verdant park.
So we started as any explorer should: with a map. On a large sheet of paper, Carson traced the actual boundaries of the park. We noted where some of the park’s landmarks were: the Pittock Mansion, the Japanese Gardens, that strange old house on Macleay Trail. And then we applied the lens of our imaginations. Wildwood is the end result of that incantation.
We hope you enjoy it. More importantly, we hope you get lost in it.