Beloved Mother follows the lives of several family members in a poor coal-mining town during the 1900’s. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing novel?
I know these people. I grew up in a lower Appalachian coalmining area. My mother grew up in the Appalachians where coalmining was a way of life. I spent my summers there where soil was a black as the coal itself, where miners can’t wash the black rings from around their eyes. The livelihood of the community depends on what can be extracted from the earth’s belly. No coal=no food, no warmth, no clothing. An accident, a death, would turn a woman’s life into a catastrophe, as she tired simply to feed her children.
Three woman struggle to find their place in a harsh Appalachian mining town. What were some obstacles you felt were important to telling their story?
One of the primary obstacles women faced then, and for many today, is society’s failure to recognize that women must cope with whatever they have available. Often times, what they are relegated to do is not what society accepts. Society then shuns them, casts them aside, because they are different. The women in BELOVED MOTHER must choose. Mona must choose a way of life that will allow her to survive by using what she has been taught. Anna chooses to live her life for a lover, and Lily chooses to make her own way through what Nature offers her. Society doesn’t approve of any of their choices. As a result, all three find themselves isolated.
You explore many ideas in this novel like family, God, and humanity. What were some themes you wanted to capture while writing?
I didn’t think about themes as I wrote BELOVED MOTHER. The threads seemed to come together as the plot developed. This novel was gifted me. Once the characters and setting gelled, the action, dialogue, senses and plot – all the story elements – played out before me as if I were watching a movie. After I finished the preliminary plot, I did see that each of the women hold a different concept of family, even though they are biologically connected. I initially included the spirit world to emphasize the Cherokee legends, to justify the bizarre actions of Mona and to lighten the tone of what was happening to the earth people. As the spirits Sister Sun, Brother Moon and Great Spirit came into focus, I realized that they offer the differing beliefs of many people, not just mountain folk or Native Americans. As a result, the earth characters pull from the spirit world in order to establish their own philosophy. The beliefs are as different as the characters themselves. Some would argue that one belief is as valid as another.
God? God, or a supernatural power, is presented as a vengeful Old Testament being, a being that terrifies Anna as she realizes she is dying. As Great Spirit is known to Mona and Lily, this supreme being is sometimes tired, a forgetful character who gets overwhelmed by the actions of those on earth. Other times, he leaves people to survive their own actions. He also merges with the spiritual concept of a loving God for good, to help Lily survive the loses she must face. Then, too, Mona so distorts the concept of a superior being that she, or her talking weasel, convinces herself that she is more powerful than Great Spirit. In looking back, the reader might see these characters as prototypes of different ways of looking at a supreme being. I had no intention of writing such, but perhaps I did.
Humanity is depicted as humanity often shows itself to be: hurtful, manipulative, greedy, gentle, loving. One character who borders on being a narcissist comes forward to save the most vulnerable character in the novel. One character has no concept of the role of father and almost kills his son. One character, on the other hand, bribes his boss to insure that his son will have an education that will carry him out of the coalmines. Overall, the characters portray the different personalities that we encounter. We all are different. We all have different reasons for doing what we do. We make mistakes. We have successes. Like the characters in BELOVED MOTHER, we trod along, attempting to survive as best we can.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
The working title of my current project is SUMMER OF NO RAIN. The manuscript is currently with Beta readers. I hope that it will be available late 2019. The story is based on actual events of the late 1960s near Montgomery, Alabama. A clinic for women of color used 1964 Civil Rights monies to establish a program that used sterilization experiments on illiterate and young girls of color. The case against the clinic went to the US Supreme Court in 1974.
In SUMMER OF NO RAIN, the characters, the setting, the events all are fiction. I researched what medicines and procedures were used to sterilize these young girls and let those events become part of a 12-year-old mulatto’s summer. The plot focuses on her socialization failures, her physical decline, and her eventual suicide attempt and the love her mother has for her.
Like BELOVED MOTHER, the tone is serious. It must be, for the procedures were brutal. The outcome was a farce as the reader will see, but I tried to lighten the mood by including events typical of children in 1968 in rural Alabama.
SUMMER OF NO RAIN depicts a grave injustice that many today know nothing about. Unlike when writing BELOVED MOTHER, I had a goal in creating this novella. That goal is to make people aware of the hidden evil man can perpetrate on his fellowman.
A story of the lives of three women, tightly woven together and surviving the harsh societal environment of an Appalachian mining town in the early to mid-1900s. Two religions contrast with each other—the Cherokee spirits of the native people and the Old Testament God of the white settlers—as each woman struggles to find her place. Love and hate, marriage and adultery, childbirth and abortion, all have their parts to play. Beloved Mother accurately portrays the evilness in humanity, in which the wicked corrupt the innocent to create a vicious cycle of abuse, until one person—with a heart of understanding and forgiveness—has the courage to end it.
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THE RIGEL AFFAIR is a novel based on real events and the life of Navy Seal Charlie Kincaid. Part Cherokee, born into Southern poverty, Charlie trained as a diver and became the leader of the war’s first underwater demolition team. His men experienced their first test, moments after the strike on Pearl Harbor, rescuing twenty-eight U. S. sailors trapped in the sinking USS California. Their missions sent them to New Zealand, Australia, and a dozen Pacific Islands, into the most dangerous combat areas on that side of the world. They dove and carried out clandestine missions under horrific weather and health conditions while constantly facing attacks by Japanese troops, bombers, and submarines.
But Charlie’s life was not all hardship. Even as the bloody war ground on in Europe and the Pacific, he fell in love. Her name was Mattie, and she lived in New Zealand. Their love story offers a tender counterpoint to gritty battle scenes throughout the novel. The book is framed around actual love letters sent by the couple, newspaper accounts from 1941-44, material from various archives, and documented events involving Charlie’s ship, the USS Rigel. We’ve also interviewed surviving shipmates.
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Fleeing the Shadows is a satisfying follow-up in the continuing Dangerous Loyalties series as our brave heroine flees with her family into the Kentucky frontier. What direction did you want to take this novel in that was different from the first book?
After the danger caused by Papa’s covert activities in book one, I wanted readers thrust headlong into survival mode with thirteen-year-old Mary and her family.
The family is always running from something and danger seems to lurk around every bend. Did you plan the plot twists before writing or did they develop organically?
I used a rough outline to keep the story moving but allowed surprises to happen naturally.
Mary continues to carry the bulk of the family’s worries as her Papa makes increasingly difficult decisions. What were some obstacles that you felt were important for her characters development?
Mary struggles with PTSD. She must deal with each fear and keep going. Mary rises to the task of taking charge of her siblings when Papa must care for Momma. When Mary shuts down in fear, she allows her family to care for her. Her ultimate challenge leads her to face real and imagined shadows to save her family.
Where will book three in the series take readers?
Mary hopes life at Fort Boonesborough will fulfill her dreams of a peaceful life with friends and suitors. She has her heart set on a certain someone and is determined to win him for her future husband, but Papa and the American Revolution say otherwise.
She blames herself for the bounty onPapa’s head.
Book Two in the Dangerous Loyalties series–a historical novel for teens–continues the riveting story of Daughters of the American Revolution patriot Mary Shirley McGuire.
It’s late summer in the Alleghany Highlands, 1775. Colonial Virginia has resolved to support the American Revolutionary cause for liberty. The British are determined to retain control of the fur trade and keep frontiersmen fighting Indians instead of joining the Continentals.
Thirteen-year-old Mary Shirley is still recovering from emotional wounds inflicted when she risked her life delivering traitorous dispatches. She trusted the wrong men, and now the family must flee Indian Creek to stay ahead of British Loyalist who seek her papa’s life.
But they can’t risk being captured by taking the main road to Daniel Boone’s trail that leads into Kentucky territory. They must endure the more dangerous and grueling hunter’s path that leads to rough frontier forts along the Clinch River.
Passions are ignited, friendships are formed, and shocking lessons are learned.
Papa ignores the warnings to wait for other travelers, causing Mary’s anxieties to worsen. Once they cross the Cumberland Gap, they’re at the mercy of God and the Chickamauga Cherokee to make it to Fort Boonesborough alive. Frontiersmen tell them the settlement of Fort Boonesborough isn’t defendable, and Mary doesn’t want to continue. Papa is confident that the Indians are too busy preparing for winter to raid.
A few days from the fort, Mary is feeling hopeful for the future. Then disaster strikes, leaving the family devastated and heartbroken. There is no other choice. Mary must lay aside paralyzing fear and excruciating pain to save her family before time runs out.
Fleeing the Shadows (Dangerous Loyalties Book Two) invites readers to experience traveling the dangerous wilderness trails with Mary and her family through thick wild forests of Southwest Virginia and into Kentucky territory that leads straight into a Native American hornet’s nest. Mary just wants to make it Fort Boonesborough and live in peace.
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