Monday, June 25, 2018

Behind the Scenes with Donna Everhart- Part II

Last week Donna Everhart, author of The Road to Bittersweet, relayed how she discovered her story, why she made Laci Stamper autistic, and why she included a traveling carnival. Thanks for coming back for this concluding post as we look behind the scenes of her writing process.


CAROL Were you conscious of the themes you wanted to include as you wrote, or did they come out of the story?

I was not, at first, conscious of any themes and I didn't write with this in mind at all.  This is something that often happens for me through the simple process of beginning to explore a story.  I've said in the past I'm a true pantster sort of writer,  (i.e. write by the seat of my pants) and although I'm writing to a contract - meaning I have to put together a proposal for each book consisting of a synopsis and the first three chapters -  there are still many aspects to each story not covered when it's sent off to my editor.  My synopses tend to run about five pages, but then I have to sit and write about three hundred pages and while I have the overall main ideas down, there's still plenty of room to explore. This is usually how I end up with something happening like a theme.  

In this story, I began recognizing there was an overarching theme and in this case, it was obviously the water.  As I began to put together the instances where it had a significant impact to my characters, the most obvious was the flood.  Then there was the necessity of drinking it for survival.  That, along with the fact that (without giving away any spoilers) it can kill us by drinking it, this all began to surface (no pun intended!) as a true foundation of this story.  Then I began to view the waterfall as having significance, as if their lives were in a free-fall, and that they really had no sense of control for much of what happened to them.  I love when I have those unanticipated moments in writing where something unexpected adds in a layer, making it more meaningful and significant. Those are the moments which I find truly magical, and I wish they'd happen more often!  
CAROL: That's interesting because for me, the theme was about Wallis Ann accepting herself. I loved the carnival chapters becausetthen she was forced to think about who was "normal" and who the "freaks" were. The ending was perfect!


CAROL: What can you share about your research process?

DONNA: I hope this doesn't come as a disappointment, but I mostly relied on good old Google.  I did speak to one person on the phone who was a lifelong resident in Jackson County and I needed her to clarify how the bridges that were out impacted the flow of traffic - although highly unlikely that there was "traffic," per se.  I found her on some site that blogged about Jackson County, and it was really happenstance to find her and that site. She confirmed you could go northbound, but not southbound on Highway 107 for instance. Little details like that matter.  

I also spent an extensive amount of time researching about dialect for that timeframe too.  What's been amusing to me, is when I talk about the dialect used in the book at a book event, and I tell those who came just before I read the book that Wallis Ann will say things like, "I won't going there," instead of "I wasn't going there."  Some laugh and shake their heads and say, "Well shoot, that's how I talk anyway."  (and they're not from the mountains.  :)   

One particularly helpful site where I studied about dialect was done by the University of South Carolina, College of Arts and Sciences.  I listened to actual recordings taken in 1939 of residents in various mountain counties of North Carolina, and Tennessee.  This work was done by a gentleman by the name of Joseph Sargent Hall or his assistant Bill Moore, and the transcriptions and recordings are available to listen to and read.  They have done an extensive amount of work on this site for the speech patterns of Appalachia - which the pronunciation of in of itself can get people worked up, as in whether you say App-a-LAY-cha, or App-a-LATCH-a.  

I always find this part of the work really interesting, and feel as if I
come away from each book with a little bit of knowledge I'd never had before.  Like the fact they called Coca-Cola "dope."  The fact that Wallis Ann and Laci could have Snickers, or Lays potato chips, and what cotton candy was called back then (spun sugar).  I learned about making a log cabin, and how to start a fire like Wallis Ann did - using "punk wood" and quartz rock.  Other parts of the research had to do with studying topography maps as I wrote (click on the link to see the map Donna consulted), so that I could put Wallis Ann and her family into certain areas with some sense of what they might have experienced while traveling. One part that I studied long and hard was along the Tuckasegee River, as well as the ridges nearby like Cherry Gap and Cullowhee Mountain.  I will be going to that area later this year, and can't wait to take pictures of the river and possibly some of the other spots mentioned in the book.
Donna Everhart


Last week I shared a picture depicting Laci. Here is "The Pretty One" written by Pam Tillis. This is part of Shari Smith's ingenious TRIO exhibits: "One book is given to both a songwriter and a visual artist. They write a song and create a work of art inspired by the book they read fulfilling their TRIO. Each TRIO selection will be installed as part of an exhibit debuting at the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance in September of 2017 and traveling to museums, galleries, and literary events throughout the following year."

Donna is working on her fourth book, SHINE MOUNTAIN (working title). The main character, Jessie Sasser, is sixteen years old, who is quite unhappy with her lot in life.  Born into a family legacy of moonshining, she wants no part of it because she's certain it killed her mother. The story takes place in 1960, in Wilkes County, in an area known as the Brushy Mountains. 


This is your last chance to enter the giveaway for the Audiobook fantastically performed by Amy Melissa Bentley. will select a winner on Thursday, June 28. Leave me your email address and name and I'll add your name to the list. If you've already entered that's okay, I'll add your name again!

And one last thing. Check out the cover reveal for Donna's next book, The Forgiving Kind. It's gorgeous!


Joan Y. Edwards said...

Dear Carol,
Thank you for writing intriguing posts about writing, authors, and wonderful places in the world.

Never Give Up

Jana Leah B said...

Enjoyed the interview, especially the antidote on dialects research.

Rosi said...

Your interviews are always interesting and informative. Thanks for this. I will pass on the audio book. I just don't listen to them. Thanks for the post.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosi --your posts are interesting too! Joan and Jana Leah I'll add your names to the giveaway list.

Carol Baldwin said...

Jana Leah--you're on the list twice!

Gretchen Griffith said...

I'm intrigued about the book, especially after reading about Donna's background research. Great interview, Carol.

Debbie Allmand said...

This has been a a interesting look at another writer's journey. Great job Carol

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, deborah and Gretchen. Both of you would love this book!

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