You are no doubt wondering who is the woman behind the photos. Where does she come from?
Where I come from, we didn’t have indoor plumbing, electricity, or running water until I was four years old (I’m thirty-six now). The pictures above are of the first church I remember attending. If you’ve seen O’ Brother Where Art Thou, there’s a scene with a church in it that’s the same type I went to as a child. Yes, that is an ‘out house.’ Don’t know what an ‘out house’ is, it’s an old-fashioned ‘port-a-potty.’ There were two grocery stores in my county and the closest department store was a forty-minute drive. My mam-maw and pap-paw (country terms for grandparents), raised all the vegetables I ate in their back yard. I sat at the table and ‘broke beans’ with my mam-maw. We didn’t have ‘city’ water. Our water came from a natural well in the ground. Cable companies didn’t provide cable service at my old house until around 2008. There’s one phone company. There is one reliable cell phone provider that actually manages to get cell phone signal despite the mountains. We had two chain restaurants and one stoplight. The town I grew up in was beautiful, but, even now, is lost in time. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change my upbringing for the world. I’m very proud to be a daughter of Appalachia.
Still, where I was raised, the isolation, where did I ever learn to dream of fairies and dragons and charismatic misunderstood devils?
My Mom was a big influence in fostering my imagination. My mom read the Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was little before bed. She handed me my first book without pictures to read when I was six. I pulled Carrie off her bookshelf and read it when I was seven. I read Interview with the Vampire when I was nine. I read through everything Stephen King and Anne Rice by the time I was eleven. At twelve, I read the Hobbit. And on, and on, and on. My mom took me the local library every week. I can still remember the smell. We all know that “library” smell. Yet, this is different, the scent memory in me evokes a secret treasure trove, where I could with the turn of a page, venture into far distant lands and worlds. I would run up the stone pathway to the doors and wait for my mom to catch up, I ever impatient to set out on a new adventure. She imparted her love her reading to me and I will always be thankful for that . . . it made me who I am today.
So, I dreamed. Imagined. Believed.
I was an only child and we had no neighbors where I lived. So, I played “pretend.” My friends were the elves in the forest, the mermaids in the pond, the friendly vampire who lived in the castle no one could see in the mountains behind my house except me. I walked with giants, built igloos in the snow with werewolves, and befriended dragons.
In the undisturbed canvas of the ever-standing mountains of Appalachia, I played out the stories of my dreams under the light of a thousand sparkling stars.
It’s no shock to me that my first novel came to me in an actual dream. Where I came from, how I was raised, crafted me into a dreamer with a vivid imagination. I believe to write you have to be able to see past the fog of the mountains around you, to the world you want to create, and believe.
Believe that no matter where you come from, whether it be the hills of Appalachia, the Islands of the pacific, or New York City, believe you can succeed.