A YEAR AFTER MY DADDY crossed over to the spirit world I went to visit an old friend of my family, Joyce Reeder. My dad had greatly respected her and always spoke so highly of her. She had been friends with my Granny Turner years before and had been good to my family from as far back as I could remember. So, after she read I Listened, Momma, Joyce and I spoke over the phone and she invited me to her home. I went in the hopes of hearing…you know…STORIES!
And Joyce did not disappoint me. She told me stories about the community in which I lived during my teen years and about a time I couldn’t possibly get from my memory, the 40s, 50s and 60s. As I drove home I thought about one story in particular of a young man who loved a girl that was killed in a car accident and how he never married after that. I came home, plopped across my bed and closed my eyes, still thinking about the world in which my parents had grown up. I thought about my pastor, Gerald, and the world as it must have been when he was a boy and then, suddenly, an entire story, set in the year 1959-60, flashed before my mind. It was a story that had never been told, the story of a young man with an unprejudiced heart and non-religious spirituality in a community of the self-righteous.
It was Frankie Keilman’s story. I could see Frankie in my mind’s eye. I could hear his voice. I could see Elle McThacker, the Melungeon moonshiner’s daughter that he was forbidden to talk to and her good-looking scoundrel of a womanizing brother, Mickey. I could see her Mexican granny, Flor Pablo, all brown and hunched over, giving out ageless advice to her rambunctious off-springs. I sprang up from that bed with a Jesse Stuart “annointin’ on me,” as the old time tent preachers around here used to say. I immediately went to my computer and wrote. Within a few short weeks the book, which had been written in my mind in a single afternoon, in the space of what was supposed to be a nap, became a printed reality. That’s the only time I ever composed a book like a piece of Mozart music. Here it is, four years since it’s publication, and I’m still in awe of how the book came about.
People often ask me which book is closest to my heart. That’s like asking a parent of more than one child which one she loves the most. They are all close to my heart, because that’s where they all come from. Each time a reader picks up my novel, they take a trip inside my soul and discover an insight or two that I’ve encountered somewhere along my life’s journey. I like fiction because fiction contains more truth that fact sometimes. So, from my heart and mind to yours, I hope you enjoy a story inspired by an afternoon spent with a dear old friend. Thank you, Joyce Reeder, Momma, Daddy, Pastor Gerald, Faye Bault and Brooks Coomer. You all played a role in the thoughts that brought this book into being.