Chat with Historical Fiction Author Katherine Scott Crawford and Book Giveaway of Keowee Valley

Posted By on Apr 12, 2013 | 6 comments


Hi everyone! Today I have a special guest hanging out with me, author Katherine Scott Crawford. I posted my recommendation of her book a couple of weeks back and was thrilled when she agreed to answer a few of my questions. I hope you enjoy learning more about her and the backstory of Keowee Valley. Because I REALLY want you to read her book, I am giving away a copy to a lucky commenter. I will allow comments until midnight on Thursday, April 18th and announce the winner on Friday’s post.

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HS: Where did the story of Keowee Valley come from?

KSC: Honestly, I’ve been dreaming this story since I was a kid. I grew up running wild through the South Carolina Upcountry—a land of wild rivers, foothills and mountains—and I’ve always been obsessed by the history of the place. I’m lucky that my parents own a mountain/lake house in the northwestern corner of the state, so I spent summers and much of the rest of the year roaming the land where Keowee Valley is set.

There’s this one spot at the crest of a pasture that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains—an old, burned-out stone chimney sits there still—that always used to obsess me, first as a child and then as a teenager. Whenever I’d pass it I’d see a young woman standing there, looking out toward the mountains, her back to me. She had long hair and wore an 18th century dress, and she seemed like she belonged there, but didn’t at the same time. I just knew she loved the land as much as I did. So that’s where the story really started, with her.

HS:  Native American history plays a big part of this novel. Why was it important for you to include it in this story? (I’m a huge Native American history fan and I could go on with this thread alone.)

KSC: Oh, me too! I’m such a history dork—especially when it comes to Cherokee Indian history and culture—that I could talk about it for days. I’ll try not to bore y’all too much.

The South, where I’m from, is so utterly shaped by the Cherokee Indians. At the time (and long before) Keowee Valley is set—the 1760s—the Cherokee were the largest and most powerful of the Southern tribes. Their lands stretched all across the Southern Appalachian mountains, and further, and the British government literally feared their might—they were always trying to bargain and trade with the Cherokee to win their favor; they even built forts to help ward off enemies of the Cherokee. Plus, the Cherokees’ system of government and gender culture was incredibly unique and progressive for its time: women were held in high regard, were allowed to vote in Council and to barter with English soldiers who visited their villages (which the British hated, of course). Then there’s their appreciation for the natural world, their willingness to look beyond the concrete and into the mystic. But that’s a whole other story.

So these things always fascinated me. I picked that particular time period for my novel because I wanted to include the Cherokee, and at this point in history, the entire backcountry of South Carolina was Cherokee land.

HS: You are from the south and currently live in western North Carolina. How did your current setting influence the setting for your story? Are there places in the story that are actual places you’ve been?

KSC: I live in what I firmly believe to be one of the most gorgeous places in the world. And I’m one of those writers entirely consumed by place, or setting. I can’t travel anywhere without writing about where I am. So Western North Carolina influenced the novel entirely! I worked at an outdoor adventure camp in the mountains of Western North Carolina most of the summers I was in college, and beyond. I got to hike, paddle, backpack, horseback ride, and explore through some of the most incredible backcountry in the East, and I ate it up. When it came time for me to write the novel I just got to explore those places all over again. Tough life, right?

Pretty much every place described in the novel—natural places, especially—are actual places I’ve been. Though almost the entirety of the Southern Appalachian backcountry was logged in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, our mountains still look much today like they would’ve all those years ago. Lots of rural highways, especially, are built close to old Cherokee trading paths, which first would’ve been game trails for bison, elk, etc. And so many modern towns in WNC are built near rivers and fertile bottomland where Cherokee villages were built.

Several of the key places in the story—Tomassee Knob, the Chattooga River, Keowee Town (though it’s now buried under a lake) and all the Cherokee villages, the waterfall where Jack proposes to Quinn, and pretty much every Charleston scene—are real. It was fun to research, and then imagine what they may have looked like and felt like some 200 plus years later.

HS:  Describe the when, where, and how of your writing process. (e.g., when are you at your writing best, where do you write, and how do you write? Chronologically or as the scene strikes you? Do you outline?)

KSC: My writing process has changed dramatically in the past four years! When I wrote Keowee Valley I was a newlywed and childless. Back then, I taught college-level English and literature courses at a couple different community colleges, so my hours were random. A couple days a week I wouldn’t have classes, and I’d devote those entirely to writing. Back then, I’d wake up early, fire up a big pot of coffee and start writing before the sun came up, let the muse take me as long and as far as she could. Sometimes I’d even end up writing as many as 20 pages in one day.

These days, I have a 3 ½ year-old daughter and another due May 1st. I teach part-time at a local 4-year college, and I’m in graduate school for the second go-round. My writing time, now, is completely random, rare, and precious. Before I reached this point in my pregnancy (I think of it as the resembling-a-cruise-ship point), I was writing when my daughter was in preschool, about an hour and a half each morning.

I’m definitely at my writing best in the early morning: that’s when I prefer to write. I love to wake up early and have the house all to myself. Or almost to myself: my best buddy and trail partner, my dog Scout, always wakes up when I do. The morning feels like a magical time to me, with the land still dark and the day just waking. Anything can happen.

I write at my desk in the corner of our living room. In the winter I have a really cool view of the mountains through the trees across the street. But I don’t recommend writing in a communal space like this to anyone who can avoid it! We have a very small house, and this is my spot for now. But it’s hard to get anything done in the midst of family craziness.

As for my process, I always seem to start with a scene: something a character says, like a voice out of the darkness, or a particular place, and then move on from there. With Keowee Valley, it was Quinn’s voice as an old woman that came to me first, speaking the Prologue. I often switch back and forth between writing chronologically (I wrote Keowee Valley mostly like this) and writing in random scenes. The happy thing about historical fiction is that you do have the historical record to go on, so that record or timeline of events sort of acts as a bare-bones outline. But I don’t outline at all. Never have. These days I wish I could! I think it’d make my writing life a heck of a lot easier.

HS: What is your interpretation of southern writing and what do you feel makes it unique? 

KSC: As a Southerner, I’ve always found it tough to truly define Southern writing. Southern literature and culture has just been the background music of my whole life; I’ve never known any different. But I’d have to say that Southern writing is absolutely and unequivocally bound by place—by region. We’re tied so tightly to the land, to our own dark and wonderful history, even now, that we just can’t shake it. The South—and Southern writing—is powerfully distinctive. Good or bad, there’s nothing else like it.

HS: Who are some of your favorite southern authors and which ones have directly influenced you?

KSC: Ha! Never ask an English professor about her favorite writers. I could name a thousand. But I’ll try to narrow it down to a few: Pat Conroy is, by far, my favorite living writer. I read The Prince of Tides first when I was 10 years old, and it changed my view of my home state and myself. The man writes like Michelangelo painted. Then there’s Eudora Welty, who tells stories of family and humor and heart like no other. I fell in love with William Faulkner as a high schooler reading Absalom, Absalom (my AP English teacher was from the Lowcountry of South Carolina and to this day I still hear her slow, elegant drawl when I read); in college, I formed a mild obsession with the Fugitive Poets after taking my first Southern Literature course. And, certainly, like so many Southerners—I should say like so many writers, in general—I’m forever changed by Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. Every line in that novel is perfection.

HS: What book do you find yourself recommending to people over and over? (Mine is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I swear I should get paid PR fees for all the people I’ve told.)

KSC: Definitely Pat Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, esp to non-Southerners (explains why we’re all a little nuts).

HS:  What has been the greatest thing about the publishing process? The not-so-great?

KSC: What a wild ride the traditional publishing process (which is all I know) has been! It’s definitely had its bumps and its smooth spots, that’s for sure. The greatest thing about the process, besides actually holding my real, live novel in my hot little hands, has most definitely been connecting with readers. There’s nothing more fun, humbling and thrilling than hearing that my story has somehow connected with a reader. I just love talking to readers.

The not-so-great: all the rejection before we finally found a publisher, especially from editors to whom my literary agent was pitching the novel. They wrote all these sorts of unquantifiable things, like “not right for our list,” “too quiet,” “love the voice but no one’s reading frontier fiction any more,” and my favorite: “we could’ve done a great job with this a few years back!” Also, I have to say the capricious state of the publishing industry makes my head ache.

But, honestly, the positive aspects of the traditional publishing process outweigh the negative!

HS: What’s next for you, besides delivering a happy healthy baby? ;) 

KSC: It’s hard right now to look past May 1st, when my baby’s due. What’s next, besides hopefully no longer resembling a cruise ship? Hopefully, more concentrated work on my works-in-progress, which are a Civil War-era novel (based on the descendants of Quinn and Jack) and the sequel to Keowee Valley. I’m also shooting to finish up my MFA in Writing in Summer 2014, and to take a 10-year anniversary trip with my husband! And along the way, I’d truly love to meet and connect with wonderful new writer and reader friends like you and your readers, Hallie!

 

Katherine Scott CrawfordThank you, Katherine! Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter in the giveaway. If you win, I will order your book from your favorite bookstore or the closest indie bookstore. Don’t forget you have until Thursday, April 18th at midnight!

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Katherine Scott Crawford was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina. She holds degrees in English and Speech & Communications Studies from Clemson University, the College of Charleston and The Citadel—and is currently working toward a MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. A former newspaper reporter and outdoor educator, she lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her family. Keowee Valley is her first novel, an historical adventure set in the Revolutionary-era Carolinas and in the Cherokee country.

You can find out more about her at her website as well as on Facebook, Twitter (@WritingScott), and Google + .

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UPDATE:

Congratulations to Joan Gordon! You’ve won a copy of Katherine’s book! Thank you for everyone who entered and supporting Katherine. 

{Winner chosen randomly by Pick Giveaway Winner plug-in}

6 Comments

  1. Excellent interview and introduction to a fascinating book. I look forward to reading it. Katherine, what a full and rich life! All my best as your “cruise ship” comes into port. :)

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  2. I, too, am one of those writers consumed by place. This novel sounds FANTASTIC… I also am quite jealous of your outdoor adventure camp experiences. They sound heavenly! (And like Hallie, I’m so mesmerized by Native American history). Thanks, Hallie, for introducing us to this book. Heading over to Goodreads to put it on my list right away.

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  3. Great interview, Hallie! THis book is already on my “to-read” list, but it may get bumped up after reading about her writing process. Love SC!!!!
    Em

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  4. Impressive, informative, rich interview. The Cherokee respect for women is something I would like to know more about. Look forward to reading your novel, Katherine. And thank you, Hallie, for a blog that teaches so much.

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  5. What an awesome group of readers Hallie has for her blog! Thank you all, so much, for being interested in reading about me and Keowee Valley. And thanks a hundred times over to Hallie for inviting me here. I truly hope y’all enjoy the novel!

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  6. I am so thrilled to have my name drawn and I look forward to reading Katherine’s novel Keowee Valley. Thank you so much.

    Post a Reply

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  1. Interview & Book Giveaway | Katherine Scott Crawford - [...] wanted to share a new interview I participated in over at blogger-writer-PR expert Hallie Sawyer’s blog. It was great fun to do; …

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