By Betsy Ashton
Mad Max Unintended Consequences. I'm involved in three writers groups. Two are critique groups, one at Smith Mountain Lake, the other in Roanoke. And I didn't duck when asked to be the president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club. Commercial over.
I think about where we get ideas for stories all the time. Nothing new for those of us who write because we must. I must breathe. I must write. But, sometimes stories pop up where they're least expected.
I'm testing the best way to market my novel. Book signings. Social media. Book fairs. I don't know what works best yet, but I'm learning with each venue. Last weekend I went to a two-day book fair. I sold some books. I signed some books. I don't think this was my audience, though. Still, I was fascinated by the insularity of the people who came to the book fair.
Without telling you too much, the fair was part of a street festival in Appalachia. Most of the buyers were from the local area or the mountains of North and South Carolina. Many were transplants from the North. They were like me and were interested in my story. I didn't find much new material from them, though.
What was of interest were the stories from the locals. Most spoke about living on the mountain or down the mountain. Most lived within 50 miles (or less) of where they were born. High school teachers caught up with students who had books for sale. Lots of mountain music, with a dulcimer-and-banjo-playing couple who were joined by a writer who played fiddle. Lots of writers flat-footing in the open space between rows of tables. What got me to thinking was what would it be like to leave one of these insular communities, only to return later after having seen the world.
What would the escapee learn? Why would she return? What would she bring back to her community? Would she be an outcast? I used the windshield time coming home to think about how to weave this into a plot. Since I'm working on a serial killer piece in my spare time, many of the sounds and smells from the weekend can make their way into this WIP. Some of the phrases will, no doubt about it.
Will I return to the venue next year? I don't know. Maybe if I need validation for the WIP. Probably not with the idea of selling tons of books. Maybe to keep my name in front of potential readers. Probably not for both days, though. That was a huge investment of time.
My current book is about a socialite who returns to Richmond to care for her injured daughter and decide if she's going to help raise her grandchildren. Not Appalachian at all. Book two in that series takes the socialite and family to post-Katrina Mississippi. Not Appalachian at all. But the serial killer work might sell well. What do you think? Ideas, fellow Roses?