Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ann Hite on the fictional community of Black Mountain

I've written about Ghost on Black Mountain before here (and I proudly blurbed it) and I'm thrilled to have Ann here again, talking about the community of people who helped populate her novel.  Thanks, Ann!

On Tuesday September 13, 2011, Ghost On Black Mountain will be released by Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster. So, is this another personal piece about the satisfaction of having one’s book published? Busted. Yet, this essay is also a glimpse into the inspiration behind my fictional community of Black Mountain.

When I was ten my mother became a single mom and brought my brother and om and brought my brother and I me home to Atlanta. She had a dark secret, which she guarded her entire life. And typical of the time and place, my grandmother helped hide it. Mother was a self-medicating manic-depressive, now called bi-polar. In the late sixties this diagnosis would have been a death sentence for a mother. Seeking any kind of help warranted an invitation to the state mental hospital, where she would have undergone the harshest of treatments and lost custody of her children. So Mother did the best she could. She moved us in with my grandmother.

Every Sunday we piled into Granny’s 1967 Osmoblie for a visit with my great aunts in the country. I would sit among what I considered very exotic women. One aunt was always on the verge of a nervous breakdown, wringing her lace hanky in her fingers. Another wore a scarf around brush curlers wound tightly into bleach blonde hair, a cigarette hanging from her fingers. And of course there was the cousin, who went and married out of our faith. Imagine a Catholic in the family.  If I was quiet, they forgot I was there and began to tell the old mountain stories. These were not for the faint of heart. Believe me. I loved each tale and memorized them. This atmosphere of superstitions and dead souls gave birth to Black Mountain, even though I didn’t have a name for the community back then. I spent many hours writing and forcing my little brother to sit on the back stoop of my grandmother’s home and listen to my stories of ghosts and goblins. I can’t tell you how many times I got in trouble for scaring him silly.

Ghost On Black Mountain’s launch party will be attended by many old friends and family, but Mother and Granny will be absent. They died several years ago. They never knew I had a ‘hankering’ to be a novelist. They must have assumed I loved to tell stories like the rest of the women in the family.

So I can imagine as I crack the spine of the book and begin to read to the crowd gathered, Granny sitting among the listeners, rolling her eyes to the ceiling. “Lord, that book’s nothing but a new way to tell our old stories.” And she’ll be partially right, but it’s much more than that. Through my novels I keep them alive. I open doors for others to know them. But most of all Ghost On Black Mountain is a love letter to the courageous women, who taught me how to use my circumstances and move into the place where dreams are born.  

1 comment:

CrowSister said...

Loved reading the background to Ghost on Black Mountain. I had the opportunity to read the novel as a galley and knowing the story, it's very touching to know it now as a love letter to the author's own crowd of strong women finding ways to deal with difficult situations.