Real Life In Fiction


Real Life In Fiction

Real Life In Fiction

Real Life In Fiction
Some books are more intimate than others. Do you know what I mean?

Some can hit close to your own heart struggles or your own dreams. Some we've struggled with for so long, the very idea that they'd make it into print feels like a miracle. And then, there are the ones that are drawn from places and people dearest to you.

The Heart of the Mountains, my 18th published book, releases on July 1st and it carries at bit of that latter reason. Based on family history and the culture of my native Blue Ridge Mountains, this story brings to life the struggles, suspicions, beliefs, hopes, and connectivity endemic of so many spots within Appalachia. Two characters are actually based on family members of mine: my great grandpa and one of my great great aunts. 

In Appalachia, oral storytelling is a BIG part of the culture. I learned dozens of family history stories from my Granny Spencer, who, though she wasn't very skilled at writing, could spin remarkable tales that seemed much too fictional to be true. Her own life would make a amazing "overcomer" story, but, maybe, that's for another tale.

Real-life can definitely be crazier than fiction, but it can also be a catalyst for fictional stories. 

How often have you seen a news story or read a historical event, and it immediately inspired a book idea? My debut novel, The Thornbearer, was a mixture of a personal story and a historical event that fascinated me. I paired the two because the external chaos of World War I/Sinking of the Lusitania mirrored the internal chaos in my heroine.  

So I want to hear from you! How has some real event or personal story inspired your writing? 

If you're a reader, do you enjoy finding out the behind-the-scenes reasons for why an author writes the books that  they do?

Real Life In Fiction
Granny "Rat"
Two last things:

1. I'm giving away a paper copy to one lucky commenter. (U.S. entries only).

2. SPOILER ALERT: below is the behind the scenes TRUE story for The Heart of the Mountains :)

Sam McAdams’ story was inspired by the family history of my great grandfather, Papa Surratt (“Papa Rat”). His true story is much more poignant and beautiful than any fiction could portray, but the heart of his comparison to his fictional counterpart is real. After years and years of prayers from his family, God found my great grandpa, a long time alcoholic, and rescued his heart in a most unexpected way. The small bit you hear about Sam’s childhood in this tale reflects some of the true pieces of Papa Rat’s story. He lost his mother when he was young, his father left him to fend for himself when he was about eight, and when he was eleven, he ran away from the mean-hearted farmer who’d taken Papa in after Papa had been abandoned. At eleven, he took the fifteen-mile trek to Mt. Airy, NC, started work in a furniture factory, and, eventually, met and married Kate (a cousin to Andy Griffith, btw). The two lived in town until Papa Rat’s drinking became so bad that they had to move deeper into the mountains. Years passed. Dangerous winters passed. The children grew up in a world where they lived for their daddy’s “good days” and survived the unpredictable dark ones. The quote Caroline McAdams says to Sam related to “if you hit me, you’d better kill me, or I’m gonna get up and kill you”, was straight from my Granny Rat’s mouth. She was a small woman, but strong. Almost anyone who talks about her describes her as “lady”, who held a gentle spirit and was an excellent storyteller.

One day, on a drive home from Mt. Airy after work, the Holy Spirit fell on Papa Rat so hard that he pulled the car over on the side of the road, ran out into a field, and gave his heart to Jesus. He was a changed man after that and never drank alcohol again.

When Granny Rat passed away unexpectedly from an aneurism, Papa Rat (the burly, mountain man that he was), mourned her loss so hard that four months later, he died of a massive heart attack. The doctor said that he really died “of a broken heart” for the woman who’d loved him long, even when he wasn’t a very loveable man.

Real Life In Fiction
Old family cabin
I’m not condoning a partner staying with someone who isn’t safe, but I am celebrating the fact that story God is writing on the hearts of men and women is much bigger and greater than one we can imagine.

Suzie McAdams is based on my granny’s sister, Shirley. Unfortunately, in real life, Shirley died from croup, but, in the magic of fiction, I was able to keep the little girl from the same fate. The family story of how folks in the mountains dealt with croup and the painful effects of a mama struggling through the exhaustion and heartache of watching her little girl die, haunted me as I wrote those scenes. So…I’m glad I got to give Suzie a different fate.

I loved getting to take inspiration from these true stories and incorporate it into this fictional one. Someday, I hope to bring the remarkable tale of Kizzie to the pages of a book. It is my favorite family history story, and…probably the most unbelievable.

God’s thread of redemption weaves and spins through generations and each story within His bigger story has a tremendous way of showing God’s unique handiwork. I’m so grateful I had the chance to hear this story and know that the same God who rescued my great grandparents, loved me enough to rescue me too.


Real Life In Fiction

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance “peppered” with grace and humor. Writing both historical and contemporary novels, she loves to incorporate her native Appalachian culture and/or her unabashed adoration of the UK into her stories. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, NC where she is the wife of a fantastic pastor, mom of five great kids, a speech-language pathologist, and a lover of chocolate, jazz, hats, and Jesus. Her nineteenth novel, Authentically Izzy, debuts in November with Thomas Nelson. She loves connecting with readers and other authors through social media outlets like Facebook &

You can learn more about Pepper and her books on her website at


29 Comments on Seekerville: The Journey Continues: Real Life In Fiction

  • Glynis
    on June 27, 2022 | 08:07 Glynissaid :
    "What an amazing redemptive story you have as part of your family's faith legacy! I love hearing stories behind the story and this is certainly a wonderful one. Thanks so much for sharing it with us! "
  • kaybee
    on June 27, 2022 | 08:23 kaybeesaid :
    "Pepper, I love the culture of the Appalachians and you present it well. Loved the Laurel story and looking forward to hearing about her roots.
    I haven't done anything full-on regarding my family history and fiction but have incorporated bits and pieces here and there. The "real event" that inspired my recent work was the Oregon Trail and I find myself riffing off of that in my current work. Every time I try a new historical period or genre, the Trail or a related issue yanks me back.
    Papa Rat sounds like an amazing person and I love his salvation story.
    Thanks for Sharing, Pepper. Wow, two blogs in two weeks, you are hitting the Seeker deck running!
    Kathy Bailey
    Your Kaybee
    Mining truth in New Hampshire
  • Sandy Smith
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:08 Sandy Smithsaid :
    "Interesting post, Pepper. What an amazing story about your great grandfather. Please put me in the drawing for the book."
  • Joy
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:20 Joysaid :
    "I love hearing the reasons behind why a book has come to be! "
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:30 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Thank you, Glynis!!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:32 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Thanks, Kathy! I'm glad I'll have a little blogging break for a few weeks now because I'm on deadline :) And don't you just love how our research for one thing can spill over into something else!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:32 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "You got it, Sandy! Thank you!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:32 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "thanks so much, Joy!"
  • Candy Holbrook
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:36 Candy Holbrooksaid :
    "Love the book and the true story behind it!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 09:45 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Thanks so much, Candy!!! I love that I got to bring that true story into this book!"
  • Mindy Obenhaus
    on June 27, 2022 | 10:24 Mindy Obenhaussaid :
    "Wow. Love this, Pepper."
  • Melissa D.
    on June 27, 2022 | 11:47 Melissa D.said :
    "Love this! So amazing to hear the true story behind the book. I’ve definitely fallen in love with all characters!"
  • Jan Drexler
    on June 27, 2022 | 11:59 Jan Drexlersaid :
    "I think family stories are the best fodder for fiction. We've grown up with those stories and they resonate in our hearts. Writing them into our fiction gives us an opportunity to interpret those stories through a different lens than childhood ears. I've found that I often see God working in those stories, too!

    I can't wait to read this one!"
  • Brenda Morton Gordon
    on June 27, 2022 | 14:05 Brenda Morton Gordonsaid :
    "I love reading the story behind the story. I was moved to tears when you shared this in the author's notes. Please enter me for the book."
  • Margaret
    on June 27, 2022 | 14:58 Margaretsaid :
    "I love hearing the backstory from an author. The wonderful world of fiction. "
  • Notes to Self...and Whoever's Listening
    on June 27, 2022 | 15:15 Notes to Self...and Whoever's Listeningsaid :
    "I just finished reading this book at lunch today! So sweet and poignant! Reading the behind the story info about your grandfather and Shirley was so interesting and heartbreaking, too. Thank you for sharing as it adds more depth and heart to what I just read. And I was hoping we'd get to learn what happens to Kizzie!!! "
  • Anonymous
    on June 27, 2022 | 15:21 Anonymoussaid :
    "Loved this insight! Really looking forward to getting to read Kizzie’s story someday!"
  • AA Haynes
    on June 27, 2022 | 17:45 AA Haynessaid :
    "I love hearing behind-the-scenes info!
    I included a crawfish-catching scene in my first book, which was based on an incident when I was little. I need to work on including more scenes inspired by real life! It's too hard to think up everything from scratch, and it usually doesn't have that "ring of truth" that a scene inspired by real life does.
    Thanks for the post!
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:19 Pepper Bashamsaid :
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:20 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "I'm SOOO glad! I loved writing those characters!
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:20 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "It is such a different lens. I love that!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:21 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Sure thing, Brenda! :)"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:21 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "It is such a wonderful world! And real-life is the most captivating inspiration, even if people end up adding very unreal things like elves and fairies. We're all inspired by something that is very real, I think :)"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 27, 2022 | 19:22 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "I hope we'll get a Kizzie story too!! The proposal is with the publisher, so we'll have to wait and see :)"
  • Pat W
    on June 28, 2022 | 14:14 Pat Wsaid :
    "Hi Pepper! Your post gave me the shivers as I read it. The quote from Caroline was almost word for word the warning my dad received as he picked up a fireplace poker to protect his mama after my grandpa had beaten her in a drunken rage. Dad was 12. My grandpa accepted Christ into his heart 6 months before he died. They lived at the base of the Smoky Mountains.

    Just yesterday, I read an article about a couple who are now in heaven because their home exploded. This inspired me to start a file on them. Who knows if I'll ever pull it up again but I felt the need to tuck it away to explore for later use.

    I love reading your stories and look forward to more in the future :)))"
  • Winnie Thomas
    on June 28, 2022 | 21:42 Winnie Thomassaid :
    "Thanks, Pepper! It's such fun hearing about the stories behind the story! I just read an account of one of my ancestors who came to Utah in 1853 with his family. He walked most of the way barefoot so he wouldn't wear out his shoes. It was fascinating! Someone related to me had posted it on FamilySearch (free genealogical site) on the ancestor's page.

    Don't put my name in the hat for the book as I already have a copy. I just started it, but I can tell I'm going to love it! "
  • Jackie Smith
    on June 28, 2022 | 23:17 Jackie Smithsaid :
    "I am so anxious to read it....thanks for your giveaway "
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 29, 2022 | 20:24 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "I hope I get to write Kizzie's story!! And thank you!"
  • Pepper Basham
    on June 29, 2022 | 20:24 Pepper Bashamsaid :
    "Thank you so much!!"
Real Life In Fiction

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