Friday, February 25, 2005

Gentle's Holler, by Kerry Madden

So most of you know I have a novel coming out this summer. That novel would never have been possible had it not been for Kerry Madden, my first fiction writing teacher in L.A. The novel came out of a short story assignment she gave our class at UCLA back in the day.

Anyway, Kerry has a new novel coming out next week. Gentle's Holler. And I wanted to tell you all about it.

Gentle's Holler is a young adult novel, and a story about a young girl from the Great Smoky Mountains, coming to terms with life in a large family and her desire to create her own adventures beyond the holler. Set in 1962 Appalachia, Livy Two Weems finds her stories through her guitar, and young readers everywhere will find they, too, have a voice and stories to share.

I had a chance to sit with Kerry and talk about her new novel.

Fred: What inspired you to write Gentle's Holler?
Kerry: My husband grew up as one of 13 children, and I've never tired of hearing of his stories. Several of his sisters are musicians, and one of them, Tomi, inspired the character of Livy Two Weems. So I imagined Tomi as a girl growing up in Maggie Valley with a slew of siblings, writing songs.

What about the Smoky Mountain region and Appalachia makes it a rich setting for storytelling?
In 1994, I was doing research for my first novel, Offsides, and my husband and I took some of the back roads across the country. Purely by accident, we drove our kids through Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and I fell in love with the name of the town and its beauty in the Smoky Mountains. I also went to high school and college in East Tennessee, and I spent a lot of time going to the Smokies and climbing the Chimney Tops. The region is so rich in culture and language and music, so I listened to Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Steve Earle, Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson -- it's blues and mountain music -- to get me thinking in the head of this kid who likes to write songs.

What would you hope readers get from Gentle's Holler?
I think that kids, boys or girls, should discover their own voices and stories. Instead of doing traditional book signings with Gentle's Holler, I am doing a series of writing workshops with kids. Livy Two writes stories of her family on her guitar, but I'm hoping her character inspires kids to think of their own stories to tell.

Gentle's Holler is published by Viking Books.

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