Appalachian Writers

Appalachian Writers


I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the writing of Vicki Lane-I think it was when someone told me about her blog. I soon realized she lived in the mountains of NC just like I did-even better she lived in the county my Papaw was from-Madison-and near the little town of Marshall that Pap was named after. As I poked around her site-it became evident that she and I had much in common-but topping the list was our love and devotion to the culture of Appalachia.

Once I got my hands on Signs In The Blood, the first book in Vicki’s Elizabeth Goodweather Series-I became a fan for life. After I read the 2nd book in the series-Art’s Blood-I realized there was only one thing wrong with Vicki’s books. She would never be able to write them fast enough to satisfy my desire to read them.

Yesterday Vicki’s latest book The Day Of Small Things debuted-I thought this would be a great time to interview her. Check out what she has to say-and stick around till the end for a chance to win a copy of Vicki’s new book:

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Have you always liked to write? Did you grow up with a determination to be a writer professionally or was it just a personal hobby that turned into a job?

I have always liked writing — I was an English major and in high school and college I harbored visions of myself as a writer. But I didn’t do much about it beyond one creative writing class where I wrote a really awful short story. Marriage, family, teaching, children, the move in ’75 to our mountain farm — all these things kept me too busy even to think about writing. It wasn’t till 2000 that things slowed down a bit and I decided to take a class called ‘Writing Fiction That Sells’ at a local community college.

How/why did you decide to write your Elizabeth Goodweather series and set the scene in Appalachia?

In that class I just mentioned, the instructor suggested that we begin a novel — choose a genre (say, Western, Romance, Chick Lit, Mystery) and a setting and a main character. Then for each assignment (setting, dialogue, love scene, etc.) we would write a bit of this proposed novel. Well, I couldn’t think of a better place to write about than where I live — after all, I knew it pretty well by then and I knew, too, how rich in possibilities these mountains are.  It was as if I’d been doing research for the past twenty-five years and now it was time to write. I chose the mystery format because I was familiar with it, having grown up on Nancy Drew and moved on to Agatha Christie and many others. I made my main character a woman in her fifties — feeling that it might be nice to have a strong, vibrant older woman rather than a hot chick in high heels.

I’ve enjoyed the little tid bits of advice you offer to other writers on your blog-how the entire process of publishing a book is harder than most folks realize-could you skim over that issue and tell if it’s worth the hassle in the end?

How can I get published? is a question aspiring writers often ask me. I can only answer in a general sort of way about novels (the rules are different for non-fiction, poetry, and children’s fiction.)

If your goal is to be published by a big, mainstream publisher who has wide distribution, then you’re going to need an agent.  And you don’t ‘hire’ an agent — instead you send out queries (email or snail mail) telling them about your novel, in hopes that you’ve piqued their interest sufficiently to want to read more and, eventually, offer to represent you. The really big publishers do not accept unagented submissions. (There are smaller legitimate publishing houses that will deal directly with the author.)

But isn’t it impossible to break into the literary world if you’ve never been published or don’t have the right connections? is the next question those aspiring writers ask. And I tell them that I am proof that it’s possible — I had NO connections and the only publication to my credit was the book on quilting. (This sort of publication credit means less than nothing to agents and publishers of novels.) I sent out over sixty query letters in the space of three months before finding an agent who wanted to represent me. It’s not a quick and easy process for most. So then those same aspiring writers sigh and say it sounds like a long and tedious process and ask about self-publishing.

Self-publishing works well for people who have written a work that is probably going to have a limited audience.  It’s wonderful for a family history or a novel of only regional interest. A major downside of self-publishing is that you don’t get nation-wide distribution. It’s totally up to the author to get the books into bookstores. There are other downsides but still there are those who are passionate advocates of self-publishing.

Is trying to get published the traditional way worth the hassle? Well, I haven’t made much money. But my last book was nominated for an Anthony (a major mystery award) which was a real ego boost. And it’s been a lot of fun finding myself a published author with readers all over the country — actually all over the world as my first two books have been translated into French. Hearing from these folks is wonderful! So, yes, for me, it’s worth it.

Do you write other genres besides fiction? Have they been published?

Only a couple of books on quilting, under my married name (Vicki Skemp) and with a co-author.

How long will the Goodweather series run-do you know or do you just play it by ear? (Personally I hope forever)

I have had three two-book contracts. I hope my editor will be interested in more Elizabeth Goodweather books, but it has a lot to do with whether the series is making a profit for the publisher. They’ll undoubtedly be looking at sales figures on this current release. I do have many more stories about Elizabeth left to tell.

Seems a characteristic of your books is tying an old story into present day-why or how did this way of bringing the story to life appeal to you?

Signs in the Blood, as originally written, didn’t have the historical story about Little Sylvie. The editor who eventually bought it felt that it needed something more — and in a flash I remembered a story I’d been told. This became the Little Sylvie subplot. And I discovered I really liked this skipping back and forth in time and story — I think that one deepens the other.  Art’s Blood’s subplot was in the Twenties, Old Wounds went back to 1984. I really enjoyed writing about The Drovers’ Road just before the Civil War in my subplot for In a Dark Season.

 My new book The Day of Small Things doesn’t have the historical subplot. Instead it begins in the Twenties and goes through to the present day. But my next book — another Elizabeth Goodweather book — has a subplot set in Hot Springs in 1887. I dearly love writing about the past. And isn’t it always the case that secrets from the past can grow and fester till they erupt in the present? It’s a useful thought for a mystery writer.

I know you’ve lived in Western NC for many years-but do you still need to research customs, traditions, dialect that is true to Appalachia Culture?

Sometimes, for something very specific, such as Appalachian medicine or Witchy Women or Cherokee folklore, I rely on books and the Internet. And my ears are always open for new and interesting turns of phrase. I learn a lot right here on The Blind Pig and the Acorn, as a matter of fact!

Do your neighbors ever wonder if they are in the books?

There are some who know they are and some who suspect. So far, no one has complained.

Where can folks find your books?

They are in many bookstores and libraries, especially here in western NC. (If they’re not in yours, you can ask your bookseller or librarian to order them.) And they’re always available on line at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

I always issue the disclaimer since I’ve only lived in Madison County for 32 years I’m a transplant — one of those “damn Florida people.” I can’t pretend to know Appalachia like a native but I can bring to my efforts at depicting mountain culture, the eyes and ears of one to whom Appalachia is utterly fascinating — at times as familiar as the memory of my grandmother’s voice, at other times as indecipherable as a song in an unknown tongue, heard at a distance.

I like to think that my protagonist Elizabeth Goodweather and I have put down roots that grow deep and take nourishment from our adopted home.  We may be Florida people but at least we saw the error of our ways and moved to the mountains where we learned to raise tobacco, plow with mules, milk cows,  and butcher pigs and chickens. We got to know our older neighbors and tried to learn from them, to work with them. Rather than sealing ourselves away in an exclusive compound comprised of other newcomers, we tried to make a place for ourselves within the existing community.

And how much there is to learn from that community! Folks who have lived on and with and by the land for generations have a wisdom that can’t be found in books.  They are attuned to the weather, the seasons, the phases of the moon in a way that at first seemed almost uncanny to someone like me — one who grew up in suburbia where central heating and air conditioning make weather almost irrelevant and the moon is only occasionally glimpsed through a web of power lines and television antennas.

Can you sum up what Appalachia means to you?

Green mountains and deep hollers . . . pure spring water . . . pride of heritage . . . love of the land . . .  ballad singers with their songs that have been handed down in their families for seven and eight generations . . .  greasy cut-shorts and candy roasters . . .  Decoration Day in a family cemetery on a hill . . . old tobacco barns . . . string bands . . . fierce independence of opinion, in religion as in other matters . . . family ties . . . cornbread . . . gardens . . . Cherokee and Scots-Irish and all the newcomers who are adding to the mix . . . and most of all — HOME. 

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After Vicki’s little disclaimer-I felt like I should give my own disclaimer. I’ve been a book worm since I was a kid-I love fiction written about all sorts of different places and people. However, as you would imagine I’m partial to fiction written about Appalachia. Vicki Lane may be a ‘new comer’ (32 years ago) to Appalachia-but she gets it. I’ve read all of her books-and each one has characters so vibrant and real that I’d swear they lived over the mountain in Pine Log or that I went to Elementary School with them. When it comes to portraying the living breathing Appalachia-Vicki Lane gets it right.

I hope you enjoyed my interview with Vicki Lane-and if you like fiction-mysteries-or Appalachia and haven’t read one of her books-I highly recommend you do. Vicki has kindly offered to giveaway a copy of her newest book-The Day Of Small Things-to a lucky reader of the Blind Pig.

To be entered in the giveaway-all you have to do is leave a comment on this post.

Tipper

 

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48 Comments

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    July 10, 2012 at 7:12 am

    hooray — new books to try and I’m due a visit to the library today!

  • Reply
    Janet
    October 1, 2010 at 9:58 am

    That was a great interview. She sounds like a wonderful writer. Thanks for the give away, I would love to win her book

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    September 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Tipper,
    You did a great job interviewing Vickie Lane. Thank you for introducing us to her work. I would love to get a copy of her new book. It sounds like a page turner.

  • Reply
    Jen
    September 30, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Thanks for the introduction…just requested the first book from my library.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 30, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Wonderful to have some new blog friends! And how neat about Mama Birdie!
    Thanks, Jim! But nothing can get in the way of milking — that just has to be done.
    Linda and osagebluff quilter — if you’re interested, the quilting book, though out of print, is still available used at a very low price on amazon. COMMUNITY QUILTS by Kavaya and Skemp.
    Thanks, Nancy! And congratulations on your new book!

  • Reply
    Linda Crabtree
    September 30, 2010 at 9:12 am

    I am always on the lookout for a good book to read, so this will be one I will look for soon. I am also a quilter so that will make it even better. Thanks for the blog you write. I enjoy it a lot.
    Linda

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    September 29, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    Great interview. Based on this article I’ve started following her blog and will try to find her books. Your Appalachian writers series is fantastic!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 29, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    My Grandmothers first name was
    “Birdie”…..oooooooooooh and from Marshall…magical indeed…
    I can see Mamma Birdie in her apron, the big pockets with a hankerchief hanging out over the edge and pulled up holding leftover scraps of cornbread and tossing them to the chickens muttering, here chickie, chickie, chickie as I followed her around the yard with franic hens surrounding us in their squalking fury to get the tasty morsel of bread…

  • Reply
    Osagebluffquilter
    September 29, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Tipper, Thanks for letting us get to know this new writer. I liked your interview.

  • Reply
    Nancy Simpson
    September 29, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Tipper, You must already know how much I enjoyed this post. It’s the best!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 29, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    Best of luck, Lise, in your dream of living on the land!
    Kenneth — I grew up reading Zane Grey — The Rainbow Trail was my favorite.
    Terry and Judith and Mamabug and Kat and Anastasia — Thanks for stopping by!
    And thank you michelewass! I hope you enjoy the book!

  • Reply
    vickie
    September 29, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    These books sound wonderful -I hope I win!
    vickie

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    September 29, 2010 at 7:36 pm

    Tipper (and Vicki)–While there is and always will be a distinction between being IN the mountains and OF the mountains, it very much sounds like here’s a dedicated scribe who has made the transition in fine fashion. What convinced me, incidentally, has nothing to do with Vicki’s literary endeavors, laudatory though they undoubtedly are. Rather, anyone who can take time out from responding to posts and her struggles with wordsmithing to milk a newly calved cow has established close and meaningful links with the good earth. To me, that speaks volumes.
    Jim Casada
    http://www.jimcasadaoutdoors.com

  • Reply
    michelewass
    September 29, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I love Vicki’s books and I am awaiting delivery of Miss Birdie’s book. I kind of envy those who are about to discover Elizabeth and especially those who live in the mountains of NC, for they have lots of great reading ahead of them, some of them surrounded by such lucious-sounding scenery.

  • Reply
    Ken
    September 29, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Tipper,
    Great interview as usual. I like
    Vicky Lane, one heck of a talented
    lady, and such a pretty name. For a long time I saw her name on the
    right side of your blog, checked it out along with many other talented writers of Appalachia. But when I first started reading
    the Blind Pig and the Acorn, the
    thing that strikes me to heart is
    where you list your interests. And where you say “listening to
    Chitter and Chatter” tells me that is most dear…Ken

  • Reply
    Anastasia
    September 29, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    Writing has always been my most favourite hobby – whether in Greek, English or French! Most people write in one language. I think I am one of these happy few who can write well in more than one languages. 🙂 I’ve read “Testimony of Trees” and “Split Cherry Tree” by Jesse Stuart and really loved them both!

  • Reply
    kat
    September 29, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I read all time,so will look for these books. Sounds like interesting reading.

  • Reply
    mamabug
    September 29, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Tipper, what a great interview! I can’t wait to find these books and start reading. Vicki seems like a very interesting lady and I hope to become one of her fans.

  • Reply
    Judith Alef
    September 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Thanks again Tipper for putting me on to someone new. Living in the Pacific Northwest is a life time away from my heritage and darn near impossible to buy books from outside the region. Even libraries are bare of such necessities!

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    September 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    tipper: vicki sounds like a good subject for a novel herself. i have a audio tape entitled if you can read you can write. i listened and tried my hand at writing a short story about my dad in the smokies, of course it was terrible . but how i enjoyed the experience. someday i;ll try again. i have read about 400 novels since i retired,mostly western ,outdoor adventure type, but a good zane grey western love story is my favorite. adios k.o.h

  • Reply
    Terry
    September 29, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Oh Tipper, you have done it again! I am on my way to the library shortly. lol. I really enjoyed the interview. Thank you for introducing me to Vicki Lane.
    T

  • Reply
    Lise
    September 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Tipper, thank you for this interview. I love love love Vicki Lane and all her books, and appreciate your insight of her very much. In fact, it is through Vicki’s newsletter that I learned about your site! One last thought, I am a Florida resident with a log cabin in Western NC, which we visit often. My husband and I are following our hearts desire and planning on “living off the land” for at least a year, in the cabin, beginning in the near future. Can not wait to become totally immersed in life on our mountain. Vicki’s books and your site make me that much more excited about it all!

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 29, 2010 at 11:07 am

    BRuth and Sheryl and NCMountainwoman — these mountains ARE magical, aren’t they! I sometimes say that my books are a love song to Madison County and WNC.

  • Reply
    Louise
    September 29, 2010 at 11:03 am

    As a life long native of a very different part of the country, I can say that I appreciate how Vicki immersed herself in the area she moved to. I am new to her books, discovered them through her blog, as a matter of fact. I loved the first in the Elizabeth Goodweather, and have the next two lined up on my kindle.
    I am most definitely not a writer, but I do enjoy learning how they work.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 29, 2010 at 10:41 am

    Okay, I’m back in the house. The first milking went well and Marigold behaved like a princess.
    Dana — I love it when other ‘late blooming’ writers are encouraged by my story. It’s not an easy path but it’s fpr sure an interesting one.
    Absolutely, Stephanie D! We were so fortunate that our neighbors accepted us and taught us. (Having a darling little toddler helped a lot here.)
    Linda and Larry and Boyd — I hope you give the books a try — if you’re familiar with the area or not, I think you’ll find something to like. And boy! am I proud of Tipper’s endorsement. I have tried very hard to ‘get it right.’
    Martin and Marilyn and Stella and Pat in TN — Thanks for coming along on the tour! Love you guys!
    Lynn L — Tipper’s blog is great! There’s so much richness in the Appalachian heritage.
    Aw, Kat! Sweet words! And you folks should check out Kat’s lovely books too!
    I love book worms, having been one all my life! I hope that Rhonda, Garland, Becky, and Susan, give my books a try and find some new characters to love.
    Hey, Helen –It was my editor’s suggestion to go with my maiden name. It puts me in the middle of the bookshelf rather than at the end. And I gotta say, LANE is a prettier sound than SKEMP.
    Wanda and Charline — I hope you give the books a try and that they live up to Tipper’s kind words!
    Nicole- I’m delighted that you’re enjoying it. I’m pretty proud of this book!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 29, 2010 at 10:33 am

    I just love Elizabeth Goodwinter books! I found them first in a great bookstore in Hayesville and bought all they had. I then went to Murphy and bought the other 2 at another wonderful bookstore. I am a fan for life. I too grew up with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and Agatha Christy. I have been anxiously awaiting the new book as Miz Birdy is my favorite character. I love the fact that the books are set here in the mountains I love.
    Sheryl

  • Reply
    NCMountainwoman
    September 29, 2010 at 10:27 am

    I picked up my copy yesterday and read long into the night. I grew up in these wonderful mountains, and Vicki’s writing rings true. This book is a wonderful read.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    September 29, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Thanks Tipper for doing this interview…
    I have been reading Vickies blog for some time…
    I was born in Buncombe county..and parents born and raised in Madison county…Like (Sarah Palin says)..”I can see the(mountain home) country from here (E.Tn)thru her books and blog” LOL….

  • Reply
    Nicole Ross
    September 29, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Our mountains are so fortunate to have such a wealth of fantastic storytellers…thanks for highlighting Vicki’s book. If you haven’t read it yet, I can attest that so far, the first 2/3 is fantastic! 🙂

  • Reply
    Wanda in NoAla
    September 29, 2010 at 9:44 am

    Tipper, thanks for introducing us to this writer. I love books about your mountains, and will look for these.

  • Reply
    Charline
    September 29, 2010 at 9:24 am

    What a great interview! It’s always fun to learn about a new (to me) author whose settings are in my favorite region. As a reader, I look forward to beginning the ‘Goodweather’ series. As a writer, ditto with Dana’s comment.
    Charline

  • Reply
    Helen Turnage
    September 29, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Now I’ve learned your married name. You mentioned tobacco, which strikes a chord with me because I grew up in SC tobacco country. My favorite smell is the scent of cured tobacco hanging on the walls of a tobacco barn. Loved your interview.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    September 29, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Folks, I want to answer each comment but (drumroll here) I’ve got to go help my son with Marigold’s first milking! She calved yesterday (pictures on my blog tomorrow)!! I’ll be back directly!

  • Reply
    Susan
    September 29, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Another author for my must read list! Thank you.

  • Reply
    Becky
    September 29, 2010 at 8:55 am

    I like to read. It’s just that when I do, I fall asleep. LOL
    I absolutely love this interview, Tipper.
    Thanks for sharing Vicki Lane with us!
    I’ll be on the lookout for some of those books.

  • Reply
    Rhonda J.
    September 29, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Looking forward to finding these books! I am an avid bookworm and can’t wait to start reading these!

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    September 29, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Thanks for the interview. My first stop this morning will be Borders.

  • Reply
    kat magendie
    September 29, 2010 at 8:04 am

    You don’t have to enter me in the contest – I just wanted to say that Vicki is just as nice and wonderful in person as she appears here in your interview! Good luck to the lucky person who wins her book!

  • Reply
    lynn legge
    September 29, 2010 at 7:32 am

    i too am a bookworm… even tho a ladybug lol i really enjoyed your interview, and it sure did seem that you both had alot in common.you have a strong love for your heritage and sharing it.. i am so happy to have found your blog tipper.. you brighten my days. i will have to look into the series of books.. as i hate when books end and you want to still know what is going on in the characters lives..
    big ladybug hugs
    lynn

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    September 29, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Tipper, I absolutely loved this interview. Vicki is one of my favorite writers, so it’s always fun to read what she has to say about her writings and her love of this area. I am like you in that she can’t write them fast enough for me .. I literally gobble her books up and for several days afterwards cannot get into another book because hers is still swirling around in my head. She is truly a very gifted writer!

  • Reply
    Stella Jones (Star)
    September 29, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Looks like I am the first to comment? Can that be? Usually I am the last. I really enjoyed reading your interview with Vicki and I am very excited for her that her latest book is just out. It sounds fascinating and I have already asked for it in my birthday request (in two weeks). I love all things Wicca and for that reason will be interested in the folklore and customs of the Appalachians. I have a home in Tennessee, not so far from Vicki’s domain, but I also live in England for part of the year. I cannot get enough of the mystery genre so welcome this new book with excitement.
    I am currently writing my own story about Halloween Pumpkins on my Blog.
    Blessings, Star

  • Reply
    Marilyn
    September 29, 2010 at 3:09 am

    What a wonderful interview, I thoroughly enjoyed reading every part of it. I wish Vicki every success with her new book. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Martin H
    September 29, 2010 at 2:54 am

    I’m really enjoying each leg of Vicki’s blog tour. Great interview here and, a little more insight to the way a mystery writer works.

  • Reply
    Boyd Guthrie
    September 29, 2010 at 2:27 am

    Thanks for introducing us to these books, I look forward to reading them.

  • Reply
    Larry Blount
    September 29, 2010 at 1:22 am

    I am a transplant too, 31 years ago my wife and I moved from Chicago to Cocke County, TN. I love your blog and I am excited to find a new (to me) mystery writer who sets her stories in this area. I will definitely look for Vicky Lane’s novels. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Linda
    September 29, 2010 at 12:47 am

    Thank you for this interview and for drawing my attention to this author. I need a book for a weekend vacation soon. If I don’t win this one, I will look at Amazon’s listing for Vicki.

  • Reply
    Stephanie D
    September 29, 2010 at 12:38 am

    32 years may not be enough to make one a native, but surely immersing oneself in the “neighborhood” instead of keeping apart goes a long way towards blurring the lines.

  • Reply
    Dana
    September 29, 2010 at 12:34 am

    Vicki Lane has encouraged me in my fearsome endeavor to write. I’m doing what I need to do, put my heroine in black and white to be a constant reminder that a strong woman never looks back to see what she is running from; does not sprain her ankle in her flight and never apologizes for doing what is necessary.
    If it never earns an agent’s attention – and it probably won’t – I will still continue to do what I need to do: write.

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