Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Kathy Stickles is talking with Teri M. Brown, author of Daughters of Green Mountain Gap.
FQ: First, I would like to say that Daughters of Green Mountain Gap is an excellent story and I enjoyed it so much. I am curious to know how long you have been writing and what made you begin your writing journey?
BROWN: I have ‘officially’ been writing fiction since 2017, though I wrote a lot of short stories and poems since childhood. However, when it was time to go to college, being a writer was not something my parents supported. They wanted me to get an education that would lead to a ‘real job.’ I ended up with two majors (teaching and psychology) and two minors (math and sociology). Unfortunately for my parents, I never used any of these degrees in an occupation!
In 2000, I began writing website content and other written materials for small businesses. Rather early in the digital revolution, I realized that I could still be a stay-at-home mom while contributing to the family budget. This was even more important when I became a single parent two years later.
At some point, I began thinking I would love to try my hand at fiction, but I had since remarried and the relationship was unhealthy. My new husband was emotionally abusive, so trying a new venture that put my thoughts and feelings on the line was out of the question. It is difficult to let characters out of your head, and if I failed, I would not have a soft place to land.
I finally left that relationship in 2017 and the words began to flow. However, the fourteen years of abuse left me wounded. I was too afraid to let anyone see what I was writing.
One year later, I met Bruce, and we married in 2019. He has been my biggest supporter. During the summer of 2020, we rode across the United States on a tandem bicycle. Those 3102 miles helped me heal my heart. When we arrived in Washington, DC, I realized I could do anything I put my mind to. It wasn’t a matter of ‘if’ I could do something, but ‘what’ I wanted to do. I wanted to be an author. Fourteen months later, my first novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow,debuted.
FQ: I always love to ask an author this question since I have no clue how to write and cannot imagine being able to do it the way you can. I do, however, love to read. Where did you come up with the idea for this story (or any story for that matter)? Does it slowly materialize while you're working on something else, or does it just pop into your head, with perhaps characters that might need to be developed? Or perhaps you imagine one of the main characters and feel she needs a story? I'd love to know your process.
BROWN: My mind is constantly flooded with story ideas. I get them while listening to the radio, walking on the beach, hearing conversations from friends and family, seeing someone unique in the grocery store, or even going to the doctor’s office. I usually take something mundane and then start playing the ‘what if’ game. What if this thing happened 100 years ago? Or what if the person this thing happened to was famous instead of just someone like me? Before long, a storyline appears. I have an entire folder filled with story ideas.
For Daughters of Green Mountain Gap, the impetus was a wart on my thumb. At a regular checkup with my primary care doctor, I asked if she could remove the wart on the pad of my thumb. Rather than do it in the office, she stated that I would have to see a hand specialist. Instead, I went to the local pharmacy and purchased a wart patch, taking care of the problem myself.
A few weeks later, I was chatting with my brother. We were both complaining about healthcare, and I told him my wart story as an example. He asked, “Why didn’t you have someone talk it off?” What? I had never heard of such a thing, and I figured he was just pulling my leg. In my family, I am the gullible one, and it is not uncommon for someone to tell me a story to see if I’ll go along with it.
Once we got off the phone, curiosity got the best of me, so I Googled it. What I found led me down a rabbit hole of research. I discovered that there are people who can talk off warts, blow in someone’s mouth to rid them of thrush, talk a breech baby into turning head down, and more! Before long, I was learning about granny women in the Appalachian Mountains, and that’s when Maggie McCoury was born, and Daughters of Green Mountain Gap came to be a novel.
FQ: The three characters in your book are simply amazing, each in their own way. Are any of them based on someone in your life, or are all of them figments of an incredible writer’s imagination?
BROWN: Sometimes my characters are based on someone in my life. This time, however, the characters are more of a conglomerate of people I know. I am in each character in different ways. So is my mom, my husband, my daughters, neighbors, and friends.
My characters whisper to me and help me discover who they are and who they want to become. My job is to listen and capture that on paper.
FQ: I truly did love all three of these characters but I will admit to having a particular love for Josie Mae. As we watch her grow from a child into a woman through the story, her conviction and beliefs come through so strongly, even when it puts her at odds with one of the two women who raised her. I am curious as to whether you have a favorite among these three ladies.
BROWN: It's hard to choose since all three lived in my head. I really love Maggie and how she is willing to see others’ differences and find ways to accept those differing beliefs and even bring some into her own practice. I would love a world in which people worked hard to do that. Like you, I also love Josie Mae, and her unwavering commitment to do what she feels is best. However, I think I came to love the least lovable character the most because Carrie Ann needs my love the most. Her positive qualities, though amazing, are often smothered by the negative ones. She struggles to love, show that love, and be loved. I’m a sucker for the underdog!
FQ: Can you tell our readers a bit about other books that you have written? Are they all focused on different topics, or is the women’s/historical fiction shown in this book a common focus in all your stories?
BROWN: My first book, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, is about three generations of Ukrainian women starting in the 1970s and going through until Russia invades Ukraine in 2014. Amazingly, this story came out just two weeks before the current Ukrainian crisis. I have a Ukrainian friend who told me an amazing personal story. I created 82,000 words of fiction to tell those three pages of truth.
An Enemy Like Me is set during WWII and follows a first-generation German American and his family. When he goes to fight in the war, he believes he will fight the Japanese. Instead, he ends up in Germany and realizes he is more like the enemy than different. We see the war from his perspective, as well as his wife’s and his four-year-old son as a child and as an adult looking back.
To date, all three of my novels have been women’s fiction and historical fiction. However, I’m working on a contemporary humor women’s fiction and have ideas for a dystopian YA and a contemporary story with fantasy elements. What all my stories have in common is character development. In fact, rather than be seen as a historical fiction author or a women’s fiction author, I want readers to see me as a character-driven fiction author.
I tell readers that I want my characters to be so compelling that they will follow them regardless of the setting. My tagline for my website is: Introducing readers to characters they’d like to invite to lunch.
FQ: Was there a lot of research involved when you decided to write this book in terms of the time period you were focusing on and the Cherokee traditions involved in Maggie’s way of healing?
BROWN: Absolutely! One of the reasons I love writing historical fiction is that it combines two of my favorite activities: writing and researching. My kids call me Google Mom, but I refer to myself as a #researchjunkie.
Although I am familiar with modern day herbalists, I had to learn a lot about healing with roots and herbs in the 1890s, as well as the Cherokee healing traditions. But even more than that, I do what I can to make my book as authentic as possible.
For instance, my characters live outside the small NC town of Burnsville. I looked at old maps to determine how difficult it would have been to travel to Asheville, as well as the Cherokee lands. I looked up where the schoolhouses were in the area to determine if Josie Mae could have easily gotten to a school. I learned of a hotel that was built at that time and is still in Burnsville today.
I also had to do a lot of research on illnesses. What did the people fear most? What diseases were not curable with granny woman remedies? How did Cherokee remedies differ from granny woman remedies? I learned a lot more than I was able to put into the novel!
FQ: It is obvious that you enjoy writing and are very good at it. Do you also like to read when you have time and, if so, what types of books/authors are your favorite? Do you have any particular authors that inspired you to try writing your own books?
BROWN: I am an avid reader. In 2023, I read 41 books. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction, but this past year, I worked hard to branch out. I ended up reading cozy mystery, romcom, contemporary women’s fiction, memoir, fantasy, murder mystery, medical thriller, military, and more. I’ve learned that I don’t have a favorite genre. Instead, I love to read what I love to write – books with strong characters!
I don’t have any particular authors that inspired me to start writing. Instead, my desire to write was sparked by my love of books. I remember my mom reading Over in the Meadow to me as a child, reading every single Nancy Drew in preadolescence, and realizing that authors often impart more than just a story when we discussed Grapes of Wrath in 9th grade English. Books opened up worlds that I would have known nothing about. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?
FQ: I see that you're the host of a podcast, Online for Authors. Would you tell us a little about it and how other authors can get involved?
BROWN: As a new author, I quickly realized the importance of marketing. I also realized how difficult it is as a new author to find a platform and an audience. I quickly got into podcasting, first as a guest, then a co-host, and then a guest host. When the opportunity arose for me to take over Online for Authors, I jumped at it.
As the host, I interview authors of almost all genres (I avoid dark genres and erotica) as long as they have strong characters. We spend up to an hour chatting about their book, how it came to be, what motivates them, and more. The goal is to highlight their work and give them sound bites they can use for their own marketing.
Authors who wish to get involved can reach out to me on the podcast page of my website or through PodMatch (www.joinpodmatch.com/tmbcreationsllc). I highly recommend this amazing resource to authors trying to find podcast hosts looking for guests.
FQ: Related to my last question, you also co-host The Writers Lounge podcast. I see for this podcast, you interview new writers. Would you tell our readers a bit about this podcast and again, how authors can learn more?
I first was a guest on The Writer’s Lounge with host Tom Riddell in the spring of 2022. As soon as we finished the interview, Tom asked me if I wanted to guest host with him. It has been a pleasure meeting so many new authors!
Unlike Online for Authors which is recorded, The Writer’s Lounge is live every other Monday evening at 7pm ET. Listeners can call in and ask questions as well. To get on The Writer’s Lounge, authors can reach out to Tom at email@example.com and put “guest request” in the subject line.
FQ: This question might be a little bit off-topic, but I love your "Double-Butted Adventure." Would you tell our readers about that epic bike ride?
BROWN: I alluded to the ride earlier, but this adventure was many years in the making. My husband had wanted to ride across the US on a bicycle since 1976 when a group of college students did the ride for the Bicentennial. He is a retired Marine and has always been adventurous.
On the other hand, I love the outdoors, but in a “collect seashells” kind of way. Nonetheless, I was hankering for an adventure because I had gotten out of the abusive relationship and felt like I needed to prove to others that I still had something to offer. I learned, on the ride, that I needed to prove that to myself!
Once we decided to ride the tandem across the US, we also decided to add in a nonprofit that is dear to us: Toys for Tots. Our goal was to raise enough money to supply bicycles to every child in our area who asked for one for Christmas. I’m happy to report that we met that goal – and more.
The ride was difficult for me. So, when we successfully made it to the end, it was a huge accomplishment. I faced demons and won. I lean on that experience as I continue to face difficult situations.
I kept a daily blog every day on the ride. Readers can see that blog on my website: www.terimbrown.com/team_dba