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Ronald Kidd - September 2018

Appearing at the
Southern Festival of Books

The wonderful Southern Festival of Books is held every October in Nashville, and this year’s festival features such great writers as Charles Frazier, Rick Bragg, and Bobbie Ann Mason. I’m honored to be included, and I'll be discussing my new middle grade novel Lord of the Mountain.

The novel is a coming-of-age story set in 1927 Bristol, Tennessee, during a series of historic recording sessions, the so-called “big bang” of country music, witnessed by thirteen-year-old Nate Owens. Nate’s father is a sad, wild-eyed preacher, and his mother hides a secret melody that drives Nate into the mountains, where he joins the Carter Family and discovers the heart of American music.

The Southern Festival of Books will be held October 12-14 in downtown Nashville. My presentation will be Saturday October 13 at 11:00 a.m. as part of the panel discussion “Journeys Within and Without: Middle Grade Tales.”

More about Lord of the Mountain

Researching Lord of the Mountain

   

When I write a historical novel, I always travel to the city or town where it takes place to do local research, soak up atmosphere, pick out locations, and imagine myself in the shoes of my characters. I like to do this after I know the characters and the basic plot but before the story is finalized, because invariably my scouting points up errors and gives me new ideas.

   

With Lord of the Mountain, I was especially eager to see the town of Bristol, where the state line between Tennessee and Virginia runs down the middle of (what else?) State Street, and the recordings that shaped country music took place in an abandoned hat store on the Tennessee side.

   

The Carters—A.P., Maybelle, and Sara—lined up along with hundreds of other hopefuls and sang for recording pioneer Ralph Peer, who brought some fancy new equipment from the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey, convinced that mountain music was as important to record as an opera or symphony.

In my story, the Carters meet fictional characters Nate Owens and Sue Dean Baker. Nate and Sue Dean, who love music, are dazzled by Peer and moved by the deep, simple songs they hear in that room.

   

One of the best days of my trip was when I found a perfect location for Nate’s house, with an empty lot next door where his father would set up a giant tent, start a church, and preach against the evils of music. Across the street I found a cemetery, which I realized could give Nate a place to escape to when he fled the tent. Behind Nate’s house and up the hill was an elegant old mansion on a high-toned block, where Nate’s friend Grayson Lane would live with his Packard-driving, union-busting father.

   

Forty miles outside Bristol, I explored the settlement of Maces Springs, Virginia, where the Carter Family lived. There, in my story, Nate Owens gets a job driving A.P. Carter and his friend, African American guitarist Esley Riddle, among the valleys and hollers to discover songs that people brought with them from the old country. I visited the Carters’ church, historic Mt. Vernon Methodist, and wandered through the cemetery where A.P. is buried.

I find it fascinating and inspiring to visit historical sites, picture the real people who wandered there, and walk beside them in the characters I create.

Now Available

  • Lord of the Mountain
    The “big bang” of country music in 1927 at Bristol, Tennessee.
    Read more
  • Room of Shadows
    Edgar Allan Poe returns and gets the glorious death he deserved.
    Read more
Learn about my books, plays, and music at ronaldkidd.com.
Download a sampler of chapters from three of my latest books.

Copyright © 2018 Ronald Kidd, All rights reserved.


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