“Life is never easy for those who dream.” – Robert James Waller
Born on this date in 1939, Waller is best known for The Bridges of Madison County, an enormously successful book and subsequent movie starring Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood. In 2014 it also became a top Broadway musical. I had the chance to visit Madison County last fall and while the much-viewed bridges are cool, I was equally impressed by the Madison County Courthouse in Winterset, which also is the birthplace of John Wayne. So, I shot photos of those instead.
Waller, who died in Texas earlier this year, didn't become a writer until later in his life. He was first enamored by business – the subject for both his Ph.D. and teaching and leadership positions at his alma mater, The University of Northern Iowa.
Also a photographer and musician, he took a break from teaching in the early 1990s to do some photography of Madison County's covered bridges. Having earlier written a song about a woman named Francesca, he had the inspiration to put Francesca and a visiting photogapher into a story in that setting. He wrote it in just two weeks. After the book’s remarkable success, he left teaching, wrote a few more songs called “The Ballads of Madison County," and then wrote several more top-selling novels. Waller’s book Puerto Vallarta Squeeze also was made into a movie.
While critics didn’t much like Bridges, the public loved it. Waller said he received up to 100 letters a week about it for over a decade. “The last I knew,” he said, “at least 350 marriage ceremonies had been celebrated at Roseman Bridge alone.”