There are so many amazing authors out there, and this year it is my privilege and honor to get to introduce you to various ones. Today, Sarah Loudin Thomas joins us for a tea-time chat if you will.
Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Sarah is the director of Jan Karon’s Mitford Museum in Hudson, NC. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Coastal Carolina University and is the author of the acclaimed novels The Right Kind of Fool–winner of the 2021 Selah Book of the Year–and Miracle in a Dry Season–winner of the 2015 Inspy Award. Sarah has also been a finalist for the Christy Award, ACFW Carol Award and the Christian Book of the Year Award. She and her husband live in western North Carolina.
Connect with her through her:
Now for the fun stuff! I have to admit I am partial to my Fast Five. 🙂 So settle in as I hit Sarah with rapid-fire.
CC: Milk or Dark Chocolate?
SLT: Dark and white chocolate IS NOT CHOCOLATE
CC: Print or E-book?
SLT Print if it’s a keeper, otherwise e-book to save shelf space
CC: Cat or Dog Person?
SLT: Dog!! Cats are fine but I ADORE dogs.
CC: Morning Person or Night Owl?
SLT: Morning person. I’m cranky after 9 p.m.
CC: Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter?
SLT: Spring–that’s when all the Appalachian wildflowers are blooming!
Now for a couple of fun personal questions:
CC: How can we pray for you?
SLT: That we find just the right person to hire as an assistant at The Mitford Museum.
CC: We will certainly be praying for that!
CC: What is your favorite Bible verse? Why?
SLT: “I believe, help my unbelief.” It’s the tension I live in every day.
CC: I love that verse! It’s what I’m actually using as the basis for book 3 in my series.
CC: What are you reading right now?
SLT: The Mapmaker’s Children by Sarah McCoy. It’s set in WV!
CC: Oh! I’ve not heard of that one!
CC: What do you like to do when you aren’t reading or writing?
SLT: Hike the mountains of Appalachia. And then eat something delicious which I may or may not have cooked myself.
CC: A hike in the mountains sounds lovely!
CC: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
SLT: Like so many writers, I can’t remember a time before!
CC: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
SLT: If I don’t know a detail, I can’t write past it. A minor character’s name, a meal I’m including, the description of a piece of jewelry . . . I need to know before I can go on.
CC: I understand that challenge, and that can really slow down the process.
CC: What is your writing Kryptonite?
SLT: Not writing. Not writing begets not writing.
CC: Wise words!
CC: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
SLT: I come home from my day job, walk my dog, have supper with my husband, and then write for an hour or so. The goal is 1,000 words/day when I’m on deadline.
CC: That seems so achievable. I love it.
CC: What has been the biggest challenge for you on your writing journey?
SLT: Waiting. If you’re a writer, you know what I mean.
I definitely get you there!
It’s 1932 and Sullivan Harris is on the run. He promised the people of Kline, West Virginia, that he would find them water, but now he’s failed and disappeared with their cash. Although he’s determined to stay a step ahead of pursuers–like Jeremiah Weber–his resources are running low. Gainey Floyd is suspicious of Sulley’s claim to be a dowser when he appears in town but reconsiders after he finds water. Rather, it’s Sulley who grows uneasy when his success makes folks wonder if he can find more than water–like forgotten items or missing people. He lights out to escape such expectations and runs smack into something worse. Hundreds of men have found jobs digging the Hawks Nest Tunnel–but what they thought was a blessing is killing them. And no one seems to care. Here, Sulley finds something new–a desire to help. As Jeremiah–and now Gainey–pursue him, Sulley becomes the unexpected catalyst for finding what even he has forgotten. Hope.
CC: Which character was the most fun to create? What makes them fun?
SLT: I really enjoy writing flawed characters–the more flawed the better! Sulley is loosely based on my great Uncle Celly (Marcellus) who was quite a scoundrel in our little community. My great Aunt Bess, who remembered him, told me he liked to draw pictures but only of the devil and naked ladies. Her brother once asked Celly how he knew what the devil looked like, and he said, “Seen him many a time.” Now that’s a character I HAD to put in a story! Of course, I sanded some of his rough edges and gave him a chance to be redeemed.
CC: Flawed characters are the best, because they are just so real, and to see them redeemed through story really gives hope to the real scoundrels in our life.
What was some of your favorite research you discovered while preparing for The Finder of Forgotten Things?
SLT: I was researching Appalachian funeral traditions when I discovered coffin quilts. I knew about cooling boards, sitting up with the dead, hand-digging graves, silver dollars on the eyes (pennies turn the skin green), and draping a cloth soaked in soda water over the face to keep the skin from darkening. But coffin quilts–this was new!
Called coffin or graveyard quilts they would be stitched by a family to be revisited each time someone died. They were typically somber colors–grays, blacks, or browns. Patterns varied, but often included a large square in the center that was the “graveyard.” Pieces of fabric shaped like coffins would be embroidered with each family member’s name and basted to the outside edge. When that person died, their coffin would be moved to the center graveyard and sewn into place.
The quilt might be used to drape the actual coffin at the funeral or used to cover the deceased at the viewing. While it might seem morbid, I tend to think it strikes the right balance between acknowledging that we’re all going to die one day and honoring those who already have. Because in the end, we’ll all find our spot in the graveyard!
CC: I’m all about funeral history. I’ve never heard of a coffin quilt but they totally make sense to me, and I love the concept.
SLT: I’m a WV girl currently living in NC, so I drive past the turnoff to Hawks Nest each time I go home. It’s near the New River Gorge Bridge—a REALLY high, REALLY long bridge that kind of freaks me out. I discovered that I could avoid driving over the bridge by taking the long way through the gorge. It’s also a really beautiful detour and I enjoyed stopping at the Hawks Nest overlook—where I read those white historic marker signs. I was intrigued and astonished to learn about such a horrific tragedy that seemed essentially unknown. And I wanted to tell people about it.
I love finding little-known bits of history and reading about them! It’s really fascinating when you can find a local tidbit.
Thank you so much for joining me today and providing all of us with a wonderful distraction. As my final question, I have my usual “Fun Question”.
SLT: Is eating as many donuts as I want without gaining weight or being unhealthy a superpower? If not, I’ll take flying, but only about five feet off the ground. I want the speed but prefer not to risk the height.
CC: LOL, I love the speed vs height issue, and eating donuts without gaining weight or being unhealthy would definitely count as a superpower.
You can purchase Sarah’s book at Christianbook.com and other fine retailers.
If you could have any super power, which would it be?