Was finally able to go through and pick out my favorite pictures from the almost 150 that I took when I visited William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak, and his grave site.
In this week’s author interview, I talk with Ann Hite, author of Ghost on Black Mountain and The Storycatcher. Her stories are steeped in Appalachian tradition, incorporating the rich folklore of both the mountains and the southern coast. I highly suggest all of her titles, and eagerly await her third novel which is coming out next year!
At the Dahlonega Literary Festival you announced the that you’ll have a third book coming out. Can you give us a short preview?
In my first novel, Ghost on Black Mountain, there is a villain of the worst kind, Hobbs Pritchard. Without spoiling the novel for those who haven’t read it, Hobbs links five women and their stories together. My new novel, Where the Souls Go, tells the story of AzLeigh Pritchard, Hobbs’s sister. This book begins with Annie Todd, AzLeigh’s granddaughter, in 1964 and works backwards. Readers will see why Hobbs became such a villain. All my books begin with a question. The question for this book is much the same as the question for my first novel. What happens when a family keeps secrets? Where The Souls Go will be released in 2015 by Mercer University Press.
What sort of research have you done while writing your books?
I often visit the places where I want to set the book. Setting in my novels becomes a character. Black Mountain is a real place but my Black Mountain is the actual mountains that surround the village of Black Mountain, North Carolina. I use a lot of my granny and great aunt’s stories about living in the Appalachia. I use old photographs to look. So if you were to come into my workroom nearing the end of a project, you would find maps, photos, ideas, and music from the period tacked to the walls. I’ve even been known to cook some of the dishes that my granny cooked during the Depression.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
When I was ten, I told ghost stories I made up to my younger brother, who became terrified and ratted me out to my mother. So I began to write them. I have a high threshold for fear. But around the fifth grade I thought I wanted to be a famous singer. I loved music—still do—with a passion. I performed in a school talent show, where I was promptly told by friends that my voice lacked beauty. Then I thought I’d be an actress because I loved the thought of acting out stories. This too was a flop when I had a severe case of stage fright. When I entered jr. high, I had a teacher that noticed my storytelling skill. She asked me if I ever thought about being a writer. It was at that moment I realized all along I was a writer. I never turned back.
What are you currently reading?
I am reading two books at the same time. I often do this. One is fiction: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. The second is nonfiction: 10% Happier by Dan Harris. Nice balance.
What’s the most bizarre question you’ve been asked about yourself or your books?
I don’t think questions are bizarre but I did have a woman at a book club ask me if I thought one of my characters in my book was really a good person, morally, as if she were real. This flattered me. This woman was so drawn into my work she saw the characters in a real way. Nothing wrong with that.
Do you have a question that you wish people would stop asking you?
I love for people to ask me questions, so the answer is no. Ask away. If I don’t have an answer, I’ll tell you.
Do you have a dream festival, conference, bookstore etc that you’d like to be invited to?
I would love to be invited to the Savannah Book Festival. That is one of my bucket list items.
What writer, alive or dead, do you wish you could share a bottle of wine with?
Well neither I nor the author probably would partake of wine but I’d bet we’d have a nice cold coke and watch the peacocks she raised walk around the yard. I wish I had been born early enough to have a good long talk with Flannery O’Connor. Her work has influenced me my writing since the day an English teacher placed a copy of a Good Man Is Hard To Find. Amazing.
Who are a couple of authors you’d suggest your fans read while they await your next book?
A couple, are you kidding? I am a self-confessed book junkie. But I will narrow it down to two. You must read Amy Greene’s books and if you haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Who’s your hero?
I keep a photo of Granny and my grandfather above my desk. The time is 1925 . Granny is fifteen and my grandfather is 17. It is their wedding day. Of course I only found out a few years ago that Granny was 15 when she married. That is a secret she kept from me for obvious reasons. She inspired me to write from a mountain girl’s point of view. I’m not saying she gave me permission. No way. She would say I was giving all the secrets away, but her story of a hardscrabble life inspires me to live my best life ever. Part of that is writing books that touch the readers. She was an amazing woman and not one day goes by that I don’t talk with her. If she could speak right now, she would say she escaped Appalachia. She would also say all this writing about the past was a waste of time. She was a firm believer in not looking back. Granny died in October 1993. Only hours before she died, I stood by her hospital bed and talked with her as she lay in a comma. When I told her she could let go that I would be a strong woman and have a good life, she tried to talk to me by grunting and waving her arm around. Our bond was so intense. She was and is my hero.
What exotic animal would you like to have as a pet?
I’m a cat lover. So that’s exotic as I get.
White, milk, or dark chocolate?
I spent a good part of my childhood living in Germany. Dark chocolate. There is no substitute.
I’d like to thank Ann for taking the time to answer these questions. If you have any questions you’d like to ask Ann, or if you have suggestions for future author interviews, post in the comments!
Today was the day. The festival itself ended a little afternoon, leaving the rest of the day open for whatever. Gloria and I decided that we would spend the afternoon with Mr. Faulkner–William to his friends.
We toured Rowan Oak, his home here in Oxford, Mississippi. The the house and land were absolutely gorgeous, and you could feel the Southern Gothic spirit haunting the grounds. Afterwards, we went in search of Faulkner’s grave at the Oxford Cemetery. Apparently, it’s tradition to take a shot of Jack Daniels at the grave in honor of the writer. We didn’t do that (Whiskey, even bourbon, makes me yack).
Over-all, I took 146 pictures today–and that’s a true count, not an exaggeration. Because I didn’t bring the correct cable with me on this trip, I am having to email myself each of those pictures, which in turn, cause gmail to give me this message: “To keep our systems healthy, Google has temporarily disabled your account. This primarily occurs when we detect unusually high levels of activity on your account. In most cases, it should take one hour to regain access. In rare cases, it can take up to 24 hours for access to be reinstated.” –It’s done that to me twice today.
I broke the internet!
I’ll post the pictures once the googly-powers-that-be allow me to access my email once more, so I can download them and weed out the bad ones and duplicates.
Today has been full. I feel as if I’ve been jumping from one place to another all day. So much has happened that I’d like to talk about more in full. There’s the gentlemen student with muscular dystrophy who won an award for his non-fiction. His story was at the same time hilarious and so full of emotion at times that I forgot to breath. He had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time he was reading.
Also, Gloria and I got to have a nice conversation with Amy Greene while waiting for her event to start. And Megan Abbot’s keynote speech was amazing.
I’ve met several wonderful people, and it’s been a great experience.
Today was the first day of my Southern Literary Festival sojourn. My journey started when I woke up at 5:30 am. I was on the road by 6:45am and then in a different car and on my way to Mississippi by 8am. We (I’m traveling with my co-worker, Gloria, who drove the whole way here–Bless her!) were on the road for about seven hours as we traveled from North Georgia to Oxford, Mississippi, stopping once to eat at a Cracker Barrel (like any good Southern traveler does). For the last two hours of the trip, there was absolutely nothing. I mean not even a McDonalds. We took note of the tiny amount of civilization we saw which included: A Huddle House, a Dollar General, and a McDonalds listed on one of those “Food” exits signs, but couldn’t’ actually see the restaurant from the interstate. There was nothing but fields, scrawny pines, and bad paving for about 100 miles. Luckily, there was a Mississippi Welcome Center when we crossed the State Line, and good thing we stopped there, because there was NOTHING else.
The festival itself hasn’t really started, yet. There was registration, which they were closing down by the time we found the place, and a reception, where we ate about 3 grapes and a giant cube of turkey. Most of the festivities start tomorrow.
After the meager reception, Gloria and I explored the town square, ate at a spiffy soul-food restaurant called Ajax, and perused through Square Books (unfortunately there were way too many people for me to fell comfortable taking pictures inside the store).
Oxford, Mississippi is home to William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. We will be going there Saturday. I’m looking forward to that bit.
So here are the pictures of my adventure so far:
Character Development: Your main character(s) is preparing for a week-long road trip. What do they pack and why?
This is one book you can judge by its cover. There is no false advertising when it comes to Blood and Bullets by James R. Tuck. You get lots of both. The big intimidating guy holding a big-ass gun and crosses, standing before a backdrop of lightning, fog, and the moon on the cover?—Yeah, that’s definitely the narrator, our hero, Deacon Chalk. And Faith Hunter blurbed it rightly when she says that he kicks monster ass. This book oozes testosterone and gun residue.
That said, it’s also a spiffy read.
Deacon Chalk became an occult bounty hunter after his family was killed by a monster. After being led into a vampire trap, Deacon seeks the one who orchestrated it, but he may be in for more than he bargained for as he goes up against ancient vampires and some unique were-creatures.
This book contains a lot of fighting, and action, and descriptions of guns. Nothing too out of the ordinary there, but the part that really fascinates me is Tuck’s brilliant vampire origin story. Deeply rooted in Christianity and the crucifixion, it’s probably my favorite vampire creation of all time. I won’t give it away here, so I encourage you to go read it for yourself.
Blood and Bullets is the first book in the Deacon Chalk Occult Bounty Hunter series.