The Stars of Locust Ridge is an extraordinary coming-of-age journey of a young woman’s acceptance of family and friends. What were some ideas that were important for you to capture in this story?
Thank you for the wonderful compliment! I didn’t consciously set out to capture any particular ideas for this book; I simply wanted to tell the story of a young woman in rural Appalachia who experiences strange, otherworldly encounters. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition between the warmth and folksiness of the setting and the cold strangeness of the supernatural undertones. In the end, I think the book tells a story of misjudgment. Although the core of the story is of Genevieve and her traumatic journey to unravel dark family secrets and the identity of the mysterious beings and encounters that haunt her, it also tells a tale of everything not being what it seems. It comments on how society often assumes something or someone is safe and respectable, even when there is proof to the contrary, and how we tend to misjudge and fear what often turns out to be innocent, even helpful.
I always enjoy the way you develop your characters. What is your writing process like to bring your characters to life?
My writing process is very spiritual for me. It’s a channeling experience. I lock myself in a dark room, push the laptop screen down, dim the screen’s brightness, and place a piece of paper over it. I need to at least be able to see that the word processor is indeed capturing what I am typing, but I can’t view the actual words without snapping out of channeling mode and into editing mode. I always see myself as the first reader of the stories. I receive the inspiration, and I often stew and ponder about what will happen, but in the end, the writing comes through me and becomes what it is meant to be; I simply get out of the way and allow it to happen. I never try to interfere, judge, or control it. Much like a parent and their child, the writing does not belong to me, it comes through me. The books are their own entities that belong to the world, not just me. I am blessed and honored to be the vessel they enter the world through. I am a firm believer that all art belongs to everyone, not just the artist that delivers it.
Novels are often based on wild premises, but you are able to write engrossing novels about everyday people. How do you find inspiration and ideas for your books?
Again, thank you for the compliment! Inspiration comes to me from so many different places. I can see a commercial on television that will spark an idea, or hear something in a conversation, or often through song lyrics. I am heavily influenced by songwriters, which perhaps explains some of the lyrical tone to my writing. I am also heavily inspired by film. I refer to the inspiration that I receive for book ideas as “seeds.” They come to me in a rounded way where I see at least a beginning and ending. It’s a feeling, really. Still, although I may know the type of seed it is, say an apple tree, for instance, I never know the exact details until the seed is planted, cultivated, and grown. All I know is that it is an apple tree. I won’t know the type of apples, the number of branches, etc. until the tree is fully grown. That is how it is for me with story ideas. I receive them as an inspiration, but they become what they are meant to become on their own; I do my part by getting out of the way and honoring and staying true to the process.
What is the next book that you are writing, and when will it be available?
I am so glad you asked this! I have written two books this year, both of which I plan to release next year. I am very excited about them both and believe they add variety and uniqueness to my body of work. I hope and pray to have a long, prolific, and fruitful writing career, and truly feel this is only the very beginning!
The stars are moving over Locust Ridge, Tennessee, in early March 1973. Sixteen-year-old Genevieve Delany witnesses the odd phenomenon in the skies above the one-bedroom house she shares with her mother, Eva. A self-reliant girl often left alone by her workaholic mother, Genevieve starts to question her reality the night she first views the flitting orbs of golden light zipping across the Appalachian heavens. Discovered screaming and alone in the woods between her home and her Uncle John’s nearby cabin, the young girl is haunted by a series of unexplainable night terror episodes. What is the cause of the often-violent hazy night encounters? Who are the shadowy and silent mysterious men seen peering out from just beyond the tree line?
The Stars of Locust Ridge captures the journey of one young woman’s coming-of-age acceptance of family truths, the extraordinary bond between women, and the unbreakable ties of kinship, both blood and beyond.
His Name Was Ezra follows young Judith struggling with race and gender discrimination in the turmoil of the 1960’s. How did the idea for this novel begin and change as you were writing?
The inspiration for His Name Was Ezra came to me in early 2017, around the time Carolyn Bryant Donham, the woman who accused Emmitt Till—the fourteen-year-old African American boy who was brutally murdered in Jim Crow-era Mississippi in 1955—of grabbing/whistling at/harassing her was making headlines for saying she now felt the young boy did not deserve the fate he was given by her ex-husband and his accomplice, and that the alleged harassment wasn’t even true in the first place. I received a burst of inspiration based around what an interracial relationship would face during that era, and how, sadly, much of the same outcome would transpire, despite Mississippi’s embarrassment over the Till case.
This is an exceptionally well-written novel that’s high in social commentary. What were some goals you set for yourself as a writer with this story?
Thank you for the compliment! I honestly did not set any goals for myself when writing this book. I simply wanted to capture the journey of a woman’s sacrifice—first for love, then family, and then for her child.
I felt like you really captured the feel of the South during the 1960’s. What kind of research did you undertake for this book?
I am very happy to hear that! I certainly researched the details of the Emmitt Till case and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, two major historical events that took place just before and just after the events in the book. Also, I was adamant about legal details. I wanted to be sure that everything that transpired during the fictional trial was true and accurate to the law both then and now. I vowed never to write another legal/trail-based book after His Name Was Ezra!
I feel like the message of acceptance and forgiveness in this story is still relevant today. What do you hope readers take away from your book?
I feel the same way. I didn’t plan for the book to be as relevant to current events as it is. The nuances and undertones of my books always reveal themselves on their own. I certainly feel that the white men in the story were held to vastly different social standards than the young black man or the white woman who loved him. I think our society still suffers from deeply ingrained prejudices based on race and gender. We often let one person get away with what we would crucify another for. What was true in the era of Jim Crow is tragically still very much a reality today, just perhaps not as obvious or direct.
Judith Bracewell, a twenty-one-year-old, pale-skinned, red-haired, freckle-faced tomboy, enjoys spending her Saturday afternoons playing baseball with the boys on the other side of town. Falling in love with one of her teammates, dream-driven, hopeful future lawyer Ezra Washington, the pair are forced to spend their shared off-field time together in secret, deep in the woods within the confines of an abandoned Civil War-era cemetery. Residing in Waynesboro, Mississippi, in 1957, the strict, limiting, and dehumanizing laws of the Jim Crow South deem their natural bond forbidden, all due to the opposite color of their skin.
After Judith falls victim to a violent and brutal physical assault, Ezra goes missing, with Judith’s older brother, Ed, receiving the blame for his disappearance. When a fame-eager, ambitious assistant district attorney arrives to investigate the vanishing of young Ezra, Judith is quickly forced to balance her love and loyalty for her only brother with the overwhelming devastation and heartbreak she feels for her beloved, missing Ezra. Amid a reckless and ongoing criminal trial and quickly-deteriorating relationship with her younger sister, Francis, Judith must contend with a self-sacrificing decision that will eliminate her personal hopes and dreams for the future, but will save her brother’s life.
Years later, the cruel course of destiny has Judith trapped in an emotionally, psychologically, and physically abusive marriage, her only saving grace: her five-year-old son. Once more faced with an extreme decision of selfless abandon, Judith finds her fate dangling in the hands of not only the state of Mississippi’s judicial system, but also the slow-changing, ever-fickle, and often unjustified court of social and public opinion.
Set between the infamous Emmett Till murder of 1955 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, His Name Was Ezra tells the riveting tale of one young woman’s incredible journey of love, personal sacrifice, family loyalty, and forgiveness, and a region and nation’s deep-rooted struggle with race and gender discrimination.
The ’49 Indian is a beautiful coming-of-age love story following two friends leaving home and traveling across the country. What was the inspiration for the setup to this emotional story?
Thank you for the compliment! I am thrilled you enjoyed the book. As my first novel, The ’49 Indian is very special to me. The inspiration for the book is based on my real-life relationship. Not so much the details and occurrences of their journey, but the bond/connection between the two main characters.
Gauge and Dustin’s relationship was one I enjoyed watching develop and change. Was their relationship planned, or did it develop organically while writing?
It certainly developed as I was writing. In fact, I think the tone of the book’s first-person protagonist, Dustin, changes and evolves as the journey progresses. In the beginning, he is naive and poetic, but when things get real, he becomes far more direct and pragmatic with the way he delivers the story.
During their travels, they encounter many trials and tribulations. What were some obstacles you felt were important to their character development?
There are certainly some autobiographical encounters in this story that I felt represented the core of the most long-lasting trials and tribulations the two main characters faced. The relationship between Dustin and his mother is very reminiscent of my past relationship with my own mother. Thankfully, unlike the case with Dustin, my mom has evolved tremendously in her acceptance of me and my relationship. Parental acceptance is a blessing denied to many—for various reasons—something I am quite aware of, which is why I am deeply grateful that my story ends on a far more positive note than Dustin’s. Sadly, Dustin’s experience with his mother is more accurate to the misunderstanding, judgment, and pain many gay people endure when it comes to their own parents and families, especially during the early days of the AIDS crisis.
What is the significance for you of the ’49 Indian in this story?
For me, personally, the ’49 Indian represents the physical embodiment of Dustin and Gauge’s hope, perseverance, and resilience. That old bike just kept on going, despite the elements against it. Sure, it needed a tune-up or two, but in the end, it got them where they needed to go. For Gauge, it represents his departed father; he treats the bike like a living being. It becomes the third main character throughout the story. It is always thrilling and interesting for me to hear how readers personalize and interpret the meaning and significance of the ’49 Indian motorcycle so differently. It’s something unique for everyone, and there are certainly no wrong answers.
In the summer of 1983, twenty-year-old Dustin Thomas’s naive curiosity leads him into the shadows of Fort Lauderdale’s seedy underground, where his innocence is met with violent and traumatic consequences. Despite the dire start, the dreariness of the season is instantly transformed when a handsome and mysterious new next-door neighbor arrives, the tattooed, multi-talented, and youthfully exuberant Midwesterner, Gauge Paulson. Gauge possesses an inspired passion for restoring his late father’s classic 1949 Indian motorcycle, as well as a healthy penchant for the beautiful young women of the nearby South Florida beaches. Regardless of their differences, Gauge and Dustin kindle an unlikely companionship, spending nearly every waking hour together for the remainder of the summer.
After a series of dramatic and disturbing circumstances force the duo to flee the familiarity of home, they venture across the country on the back of the antique motorcycle, with only their friendship and a shared dream of relocating to the magnificent California shores of the Pacific Coast leading the way.
Faced with an onslaught of trials, tribulation, turmoil, and misfortune, Dustin and Gauge persevere, surrounded and guided by a connection that transcends their understanding. When an unexpected intruder invades the sanctuary of their world, the young men are confronted with an impossible fate, challenging them to embody the selfless sacrifice and impenetrable commitment needed for their journey’s end on the sands of the Pacific.
Intense and beautifully tragic, The ’49 Indian tells a timeless, universal coming-of-age love story, vividly capturing the fierce, uncompromising loyalty of a profound and mighty bond.
Genevieve Delany doesn’t have the easiest of lives. Nestled in the Tennessee hills, she resides in her family’s cabin virtually alone, attending high school, and alternately checking on and being checked on by her mother’s troubled brother, John. Gen, as she is called by her small family, finds herself overcome with any and every emotion possible for a young girl her age. From her newly discovered feelings for Kenneth, the son of Sevierville’s doctor, to her fascination with the moving stars that dance above Locust Ridge, to the night terrors that have begun to plague her, Gen is dealing with more than any one girl should ever face.
The Stars of Locust Ridge, by Craig Moody, is a mesmerizing tale of a young Tennessee girl caught up in a madness she cannot explain and isn’t sure she wants to fully understand. Genevieve is wise beyond her years but at the same time, she is terribly naive and impulsive. Raising herself and depending on occasional comfort from her uncle, who has his own set of issues to face, she remains confused about the way her teenage life is changing and has as many questions about her feelings as she does about her own background. Unanswered questions seem to be the focal point of Moody’s work.
I flew through Moody’s book and allowed my sleep to be preempted by the tragic turns of Genevieve’s life. There are so many things I want to expound upon, but I won’t spoil Moody’s work for readers. I will say this–Moody begins the book with numerous loose ends that the reader sees flying about like so many fall leaves in a whirlwind. They all seem to be related, but the reader doesn’t see how they could possibly ever connect. The true beauty of Gen’s story is that they, indeed, are connected and tie together neatly and into one fantastically written gift by the book’s end.
I am not sure I can say that Moody’s work isn’t completely realistic fiction. The way Moody presents Gen and her feelings about her supernatural encounters, the reader is left wondering, if not hoping, there might actually be life out there beyond our planet. I can honestly say that Gen’s humble life and her innocent outlook on her close encounters leaves me with a feeling much different from any other book I have ever read on the topic. The way Moody intertwines her tragic life with the notion of extraterrestrial beings is unique and captivating.
I could write for days on the treasure that is The Stars of Locust Ridge. Craig Moody, a new author for me, has skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorites. At just under 250 pages, it is a quick read with charming characters and a truly engaging plot that will leave you guessing to the very end. Nothing is more satisfying than trying to outguess yourself as you read, and Craig Moody succeeds in providing readers with just that type of reading experience.
Pages: 244 | ASIN: B07KSXPGJK
His Name was Ezra is an amazing story of love and tragedy. Taking place in Mississippi during the racially-charged 1950’s and 60’s. Jim Crow laws and inherent bias steer much of the plot of the story. Ezra, a young black man, and Judy, a freckle-faced white woman, have the cards stacked against them as their longtime friendship slowly begins to develop into something more.
Craig Moody writes beautifully. He has a poetry to his words as they describe his characters and their setting. I live in the south so I know that Moody sets the scene impeccably, speaking of dry words falling to the ground like acorns and the swatting of hungry mosquitoes. He also throws in some local color with the dialogue between the characters. Every “you” is replaced by “ya.” Brother becomes “brotha.” Sister becomes “sista.”
His Name was Ezra is set in another time, but the story is still relevant today. Race relations are still imperfect. We have come a long way as a nation, but we have so much further to go. This book can aid in bridging the divide. It’s an important tool to pull back the curtain, so to speak, on those who continue to judge people based on the color of their skin rather than the content of their character as Dr. King would have us do.
Moody also pulls back the curtain on domestic abuse. Judy suffers the brunt of Billy’s aggression. He describes how Billy only hits her in areas that will be covered by clothing in public or around others. Judy takes it because she feels she has no other choice. She sacrifices her happiness, her health, everything, to try to ensure the safety of her brother and then her son. She becomes a shell of herself. Self-preservation is not on her to-do list ever.
Readers will identify with Moody’s well-developed characters. Judy loves Ezra and her family, forgiving her brother and sister over and over. Luke tries to help Judy while furthering his career, and gets a few priorities mixed up in the process. Chances are, readers will also recognize the more menacing characters that stomp through the chapters. Billy is the picture of perfection in the community. Good family. Good looks. Wife and child. However, Billy is a heavily flawed and dangerous monster. We all know someone who has turned out to be someone different than who we thought they were.
I’m giving His Name was Ezra by Craig Moody five out of five stars. I would give him ten if I could. He has a beautiful way of describing even the most ugly parts of humanity. The story was cohesive. The plot flowed well. There was never a dull moment as suspense ebbed and flowed throughout the story. This was a real page-turner for me, and I cannot wait to read more of Moody’s work.
Pages: 232 | ASIN: B079NP9JJ5
Back in the 1980’s when the LGBTQ community was severely marginalized. Back when AIDS was called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). Dustin Thomas struggled with his identity. Unbeknownst to him the place his parents likened with Sodom would be the beginning of his journey to understand his true self. At the age of 20, he gained the courage to walk through those doors. This would lay the foundation for the relationship he would later have with Gauge Paulson. How will they survive with only their restored 1949 Indian Motorcycle and hope? How will they navigate the complexity of their relationship? Will their Fort Lauderdale past follow them down the California Coast?
This book tells a very important story in the history of the LGBTQ community. There is a lot that people do not know about the struggle before members of the community could openly fight for their liberation. If for nothing else, read this book to truly understand the struggle. It provides an accurate albeit bleak picture of what life was like for the LGBTQ community in the 1980’s as well as the lengths they had to go to simply exist in the society.
This is a well written book and a moving tale. The style of writing is fitting for a story of this intensity and magnitude. It is emotive and gut wrenching. You find yourself rooting for young Dustin to overcome all the hurdles on his path.
The grammar is spotless with a flair that is just right, never feeling inappropriate for the tragic undertone of the story. The author has an uncanny ability to create a full dimensional mental picture with both his creative use of language and unique tone, giving an artistic feel to his writing.
This is a very informative book. There is a story to enjoy sure, but at the core of it is a lesson for human kind. At the end of it all you wonder why human beings cannot coexist in peace without judgement and creation of restrictive societal codes. What would really happen if everyone was accepted just as they were? This book is thought provoking in this way. You will also learn that love truly is powerful; against ignorance and debilitating superiority complexes.
Craig Moody has broken into the genre with a powerfully poignant book. This book tells a story that many need to hear.
Pages: 252 | ASIN: B06XD51X19