Most of my books begin with questions that I need answered. Going to the Water began percolating in my thoughts in the fall of 2014. Michael Brown had been shot and killed by police and no longer could the country sit by without speaking out. I felt I had been pulled back in time to the sixties. My youngest daughter was a sophomore in high school, and we suddenly had to move from the home where she had lived all her life. Someone I had counted as a dear, dear friend had betrayed me, and the friendship could not be saved. And, as if that wasn’t enough, a neighbor I much admired, who marched at Selma, Alabama in the sixties, who I thought had many of my same views, told me that the star quarterback for the local high school–my daughter went to another school–had slipped into the basement of the gym on a weekend and killed himself. Turns out many of the kids at this school had started a rumor that the young man, a senior, was gay. The rumor spread like wildfire through the school and community. When I recovered from my naive shock that things like this still happened and asked the neighbor why the football player with a promising college career would do such a thing, she said the school kids couldn’t tolerate their star quarterback being gay and she couldn’t blame them. Of course no one knew for sure whether the rumors were true, only that a handful of people decided to make a judgement and strike out on their own vigilante crusade. I was speechless and heartbroken that such a thing could happen in 2014 in a neighborhood of Atlanta, a progressive city.
Going to the Water is a book about passing judgment, about throwing stones when one lives in a glass house, but the story is so much more. It’s a book about the shame most people carry around. Shame saddled on their backs early in life. There is the love of place and nature, a saving grace. The humanity of a father’s legacy. It’s a tale of forgiveness and the rough road that one has to travel to get there. A murder and the fight for the truth. It’s a mystery that will leave the reader guessing until the last few pages.
My wonderful publisher, Firefly Southern Fiction, turned out this brilliant book cover. I hope all the readers will love it like I do.
Often I feel I’ve channeled my fictional Appalachian characters from several of my eccentric relatives from long ago. I was born in Georgia and left before I was a year old. I didn’t return for good until I was ten. That’s when my mother brought my brother and me back to live with my grandmother. It was then I began to absorb both the wonderful and eerie tales told by my extended family. One of the first stories I heard upon arrival at my grandmother’s home was about a fighter pilot—an air force base was nearby—had recently crashed into the house down the street. The eighty-year old home was owned by two old maid sisters: one who had spent her life in a wheelchair and the other caring for her. The whole street ran to watch the fire. Some claim to have seen the pilot in the front seat of the jet trying to get out. Others claim to have heard one of the sisters screaming. The only survivor was the sister in the wheelchair. If that’s not the stuff that makes a storyteller, I don’t know what is. This atmosphere of tall tales, spells, and spirits gave birth to Black Mountain. I didn’t have a name for the community back then, but I spent many hours writing and forcing my little brother to listen to my stories of ghosts and goblins. Ah, but children do grow up. Or do they?
The fictional community of Black Mountain finally got its name while I was flipping hamburgers in my kitchen one night in the spring of 2004.
Mama warned me against marrying HobbsPritchard. She saw the future in her tealeaves, death.
These two sentences shot through my mind in a strong southern voice that was not my own. Nellie Pritchard was alive and begging to tell her story, And so it was to be. Not only did she appear with much to say, but several different characters lined up to tell their tales and inherently tell more about Nellie in the process. Many short stories later a novel appeared: Ghost On Black Mountain.
As some of the old folks on Black Mountain would say: ‘The mountain is alive as me or you. If you listen, you can hear her breath. You can feel her moan. Once you get her in your blood, they’re ain’t no leaving. No matter how far you go it’s the only home you’ll ever know.’
Good reading. Ann