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!