Welcome to the Quid Pro Quills, Sarah!
SLT- Thanks so much for inviting me. I love to share about my novels, writing, and my favorite place—Appalachia!
Miracle in a Dry Season is set in Wise, West Virginia, home of the beautiful Appalachian Mountains. Tell us a little about growing up in West Virginia.
SLT- I’m the seventh generation to grow up on our family farm. When I was young, it seemed like a hardship being so far out in the country, away from my friends and fun things like the city pool, but now I know what a blessing it was. We worked hard on the farm. There was hay to put up in the summer, the garden to maintain, animals to care for, but in hindsight I can see what a rich childhood I enjoyed. Going to the swimming hole, being related to most everyone at church, eating the bounty of the land—it was a good way to grow up.
Are there any true accounts in this story or folk tales you’ve passed along?
SLT- Our house was filled with stories, especially from my Dad’s growing up years. It’s those stories that are almost mythical to me. So many of the characters—my grandparents, great aunts and uncles, great grandmother, Dad’s childhood acquaintances—were gone by the time I took an interest. Even so, they live on through his stories. Now I have a chance to go back to that “simpler” time when life was pretty well confined to a small community of people who supported one another. I try not to use the stories outright, but there are bits and pieces. At a tense point in the novel there’s the following exchange:
George Brower was sitting not far off and he quirked a smile. “You ever hear tell about Joe Cutright’s old dog Sloomer? The dog what ate a whole bucket of pig slop afore anybody noticed?”
Robert grinned. “Seems like I mighta heard that one, but Frank here probably ain’t. Go ahead and tell it.”
And with that the whole lot of ‘em were off and telling stories, eating more stew, raving over the biscuits and laughing until their sides hurt.
There really was a dog named Sloomer and he really did eat a bucket of pig slop. It’s one of my dad’s favorite stories and I couldn’t resist inserting it in part.
I hear you love to cook. Do you use any recipes that have been handed down from your ancestors?
SLT- I have some of my Grandma Burla’s recipes and I’d give just about anything to taste the apple butter we made in Aunt Bess’ big ole kettle one more time. My ancestors didn’t really use recipes—they just cooked. Green beans with bacon grease. Pie crust and biscuits with lard. It was more about basic techniques than specific recipes. Squirrel, for example. I learned that it’s best to parboil it before you roll it in flour and fry it. And you have to make gravy with the drippings. It’s been a while since I ate fried squirrel, but it’s actually really good.
What inspired you to write Perla and Casewell’s story?
SLT- My stories are a love letter to Appalachia and my heritage. I had the idea to create characters who seem to have “miraculous” abilities based on the miracles of Christ—the loaves and fishes, healing, walking on water, etc. It was just natural to set those stories in the place I know and love best. My grandmother already had a child when my grandfather married her in the 1930s. I often wondered what challenges that presented for them. My grandmother died when Dad was 18 so I never got to ask her about it. Casewell and Perla aren’t based on my grandparents, but it did let me imagine how they might have loved each other in spite of life’s challenges.
What authors inspire you?
SLT- There are so many authors I enjoy. I’ve loved Jan Karon’s Mitford since Father Tim first stepped out of the Main Street Grill. She writes such cozy, comfortable books that at the same time are filled with good messages and life lessons. And while her fiction is strongly faith-focused, she’s seen as a mainstream author—quite a feat in this day and age! As for C.S. Lewis, well, he’s simply the most brilliant Christian thinker I’ve ever encountered. Mere Christianity is a must-read for any believer (or potential believer!).
What are you working on next?
SLT- Book #2 in the Appalachian Blessings series is tentatively titled Until the Harvest and is due out Summer 2015. It’s about the next generation of the Phillips family. Here’s the promo copy:
When a family tragedy derails Henry Phillips’ college studies, he’s left unmoored and feeling abandoned. Although Henry tries to find escape in bad company, the only things that can tamp down his anger and grief are the family farm, his fiddle, and sweet but odd pre-teen Mayfair Hoffman.
Unfortunately, Mayfair’s older sister Margaret with the freckles and cute, turned up nose, has the opposite effect. Worse, she’s his grandmother’s housekeeper and helper, so she’s always around and ready to push his buttons. At first he thinks she doesn’t care about his loss, before beginning to understand she’s facing her own struggles. Mayfair’s health and unique gift sit at the heart of those worries, and Henry and Margaret soon find themselves relying on each other as both Henry’s future and Mayfair’s life are put at risk.
Thanks for joining us today, Sarah!
For more about Sarah, including her blog, visit www.sarahloudinthomas.com and make sure to purchase your copy of Miracle in a Dry Season. Sarah can also be found on Facebook and Twitter (@SarahAnneThomas).