Tuscaloosa mother, son make dual literary debuts

By JENNIFER COHRON
Posted 3/3/19

Bug Tussle moves across the Cullman-Walker county line and gets a four-legged mayor in a mystery book series for childen that debuted in February.Tuscaloosa author Paula Castleberry Wildgrube's …

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Tuscaloosa mother, son make dual literary debuts

Posted

Bug Tussle moves across the Cullman-Walker county line and gets a four-legged mayor in a mystery book series for childen that debuted in February.

Tuscaloosa author Paula Castleberry Wildgrube's family ties to Walker County helped her find the setting for "To Catch a Thief," the premier Mayor Tom Mystery and Wildgrube's first book.

"I've always been intrigued with the name Bug Tussle. When I created my world, I wanted to be in Walker County, but I wanted it to be Bug Tussle," Wildgrube said.

The sheriff of Bug Tussle, Tully Thompson, shares a name with her great-great grandfather who was a constable in Walker County at the turn of the 20th century.

The fictional town's park is named for her grandmother, former Walker County High School nurse Chessie Mae Gurganus, and Lewis Smith Lake is renamed Lake Pop.

The layout of the town is inspired by Wildgrube's hometown of Demopolis.

Wildgrube got the idea for the book during the 2008 election when she learned about a town in Alaska that had elected a cat to be its mayor for several years. Stubbs was the honorary mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, from 1997 until its death in 2017.

"I thought, 'That would be a great children's book,'" Wildgrube said.

Several years later, she was inspired to start the project after her son, Erich Otto Wildgrube IV, became involved in National Novel Writing Month. The annual writing challenge encourages authors to write a 50,000-word first draft of a novel during the month of November.

As Erich Wildgrube worked on a draft that has now been published as "The Empress and the Archer," Paula Wildgrube created the Mayor Tom series.

Her cats Tango, The Professor, Baggy, Tyler and Steve served as the inspiration for the furry protagonists in the book. 

Fictional Bug Tussle residents elect a tomcat to lead them after the town's mayor resigns and leaves town and a stranger appears who claims to have bought most of the public spaces.

The cat, who does not speak or have any extraordinary powers, solves the mystery with the help of his love interest, The Professor, and her kittens.

Wildgrube, who homeschooled her own four children and now runs a homeschool with her husband, made the book educational as well as entertaining. 

Parents can find a list of homework assignments and activities for each chapter on the Facebook page, Mayor Tom Mysteries. A list of vocabulary words is included at the end of each chapter.

"Having raised and educated four kids, I never spoke down to them. I always used big words and have been very happy with the way they've all turned out," she said.

Wildgrube has already written three other Mayor Tom mysteries and has ideas for several more.

Her goal is to see "Pandamonium" published in the fall with "A Tale of Five Kitties" to follow in the spring 2020 and "The Prince and the Pawper" in fall 2020.

The book is available at Amazon or at Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in Tuscaloosa.

The books are illustrated by Alexis Jones, one of Wildgrube's students.

The series is published by Borgo, an independent book publisher based in Tuscaloosa. It is written for children in first through fifth grades.

Erich Wildgrube IV wrote his book, "The Empress and the Archer," for a slightly older audience. 

In the young adult fantasy, which was published by Borgo in September, an empress-to-be must save her kingdom from an invasion of druids and goblins after her father is killed. She goes in search of a fabled hero and meets a young man from the modern world who is facing common struggles with work, friends and family.

Like his mother, Erich Wildgrube chose a familiar setting for his novel.

"I call it Queen City, but it's a fictionalized version of Tuscaloosa," he said. 

It is the first installment of what Wildgrube has planned as four duologies. 

"I've written the first three books in the series so far. I wrote the first two during that November and I spent about a year and a half editing. In the process, I split it into two books and doubled the length of each," he said.

The book is intended for an audience no younger than fourth or fifth grade.

It is also available at Amazon or at Ernest & Hadley Booksellers in Tuscaloosa.