Real Life In Fiction
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 made 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 Mountain, 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 remarkable "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 mixed with a historical event t hat fascinated me. I paired the two because the external chaos of World War I/Sinking of the Lusitania paired well with 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?
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.
|Old family cabin|
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.
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 www.pepperdbasham.com