Please give a warm welcome to Pepper Basham, our guest today!
I think it was Mary Connealy who once said, “If things in a story start getting slow, bring out a man with a gun.”
Well, I haven’t written a whole lot of ‘gunslinging’ stories. Sinking ocean liners, trench mustard gas, or the Spanish Flu, maybe, but not a whole lot of gunslinging. Until now.
And I’m kind of surprised it’s taken me so long, because, evidently, I come from a long line (and a community) where there was gun slinging aplenty. Appalachia. Known for its horse thievery, moonshinin’, and Revolutionary War snipers. Oh, and it’s awesome accent and Andy Griffith 😉
So, when I had the opportunity to write a book about a courthouse shootout in my hometown, I thought I’d give it a try…after all, I could just channel my inner Mary Connealy, right?
Not as easy as it may seem, though Mary is incredibly inspirational, because the “shootout” wasn’t fictional, and a century later people still had strong feelings about which side of the Hillsville Courthouse Massacre was right and which was wrong (and those sides didn’t always agree).
The opportunity to write about my own hometown’s shootout came in The Red Ribbon, a historical suspense novel based on the Virginia Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912. This tragedy made national headlines—including a nationwide manhunt—from March 14th to April 12th, when it was overshadowed by the sinking of the Titanic.
Writing about a hot topic that still resonates with the community you grew up in is a tricky business. People still take sides, and many folks don’t want to talk about what happened (even a century later). What’s even more difficult is taking a story that has VERY little hope in it and turning it into a book that brings hope.
I don’t know about you, but maybe those stories with gunslingers and outlaws and suffering and tragedy…are the ones that need hope the most. This one sure felt like it. And it was a great reminder of how God uses difficulties and situations that leave us asking “why”, to draw us closer to Him and create in us character (Romans 5).
Visiting the historic courthouse that still stands in my hometown and running my fingers over the bullet holes still carved in the walls brought this history to life and (I hope) infused this story with setting. (You can see some of the videos from the courthouse here http://www.truecolorscrime.com/red-ribbon.html)
By the way, the coolest part of this REAL story was that the shootout all started over a KISS!!! (I really don’t know a better way to start a gunslinging, family feud-like story, do you?) So thanks, Mary. I brought in a few guys with guns, some dirty cops, a really smart granny, and an awesome dog. Some of the characters were real folks and some emerged from my imagination, but all contributed to making of The Red Ribbon.
Does your hometown have any significant, interesting,
odd, or exciting history?
Post your answer below for a chance to win a digital or paperback copy of
The Red Ribbon.
I wrote my first story when I was a nine-year-old, freckled-faced tomboy in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains (my earlier writings wouldn’t have been considered “books”, more like short stories). Coming from a long line of oral storytellers, weaving a good yarn seemed a typical part of my life. It wasn’t until I finished college, had two children, and a full-time job before I began to study the ‘craft’ of writing (you know when I had plenty of time).
My music-director turned pastor husband took his first senior pastor position eight years ago, moved the 6 of us to Tennessee, where we added our fifth and final kid to the Basham crew. And now hubby is a music minister in Asheville, NC. Yep, we love the Blue Ridge Mountains.
So…now I’m an older, freckled-faced mommy enjoying life, learning to write, and laughing often. My mom says that I must have a small bit of insanity because I don’t realize how stressed I ought to be.
I’m also a speech-language pathologist who spends her time hanging out with kids who have social communication and language difficulties! It’s a challenge and a blessing – and constantly teaches me about the importance of thinking outside the box!