The author of The Storycatcher talks about the lure of Black Mountain and seeing ghosts before our Twitter chat.
“The first time I saw this place, I felt like I had finally come home,” says Georgia author Ann Hite about Black Mountain, the setting for her first two novels. Based on the real town about 15 miles northeast of Asheville, Black Mountain was named for the range of mountains that border the town. Taking literary license, Hite moved her town up the mountain and condensed it to a few souls dedicated enough to live off the land in what is described as a picturesque, but isolated, setting.
Black Mountain was the location for Hite’s first book Ghost on Black Mountain and shows up again in her latest novel, The Storycatcher (one of our Fall/Winter Reads). “Walking the streets, you feel like you’ve gone back years in time,” says Hite. “I stuck with Black Mountain because it has become a character in my novels.”
Black Mountain was alive and collected souls for sport. When it got riled, no telling what might happen: Fresh milk turned sour, a calf came out with two heads, and mules went wild for no good reason. People were known to turn half-crazy. If the mountain was stirring, it was a lot more to worry over than a few ghosts, even if one was a colored girl with a meal look on her face. – Shelly Parker, Part Two
Character development is something Hite thrives on, whether it be a mountain town, crooked preacher, granny woman or black maid who casts spells. Some of her characters are real, but others are “haints” or spirits wandering the mountain in search of someone to listen to their story. In The Storycatcher, each of Hite’s characters gets their own chapter so that the story is revealed slowly, person by person, tale by tale.
I heard tell there was a colored woman’s ghost who walked the Ridge. She was what the old-timers called a storycatcher. Her job was to set life stories straight, ’cause the Lord only knew how many were all twisted in a knot. – Ada Lee Tine, Prologue
Hite says she writes organically and doesn’t know herself what’s going to happen next. “It felt the most natural way to allow the reader to maneuver through the multiple points of view,” Hite explains. “Also, this story was truly multiple stories held together by one common thread.”
That common thread is a white pastor who came to the mountain from Georgia and justifies his evil deeds with the word of God. It will several spirits, his wife, daughter Faith and their maid Amanda and her daughter Shelly to stop him and make the mountain a safe place to live again. And Hite’s spirits aren’t just confined to the mountain. She weaves a parallel story on the Georgia coast that contains just as many ghosts and mysteries as Black Mountain.
As for her personal beliefs in ghosts and spirits, Hite says she has a logical mind, but “I’ve had several unexplained experiences. Many of the ghostly happenings in The Storycatcher are based on stories I heard growing up, but there is one scene where Faith is sitting in the church alone and a woman walks inside, talks to her and leaves suddenly. This was based on something that really happened to my husband and me.”
A shadow moved into the one source of light, the vestibule where the bell ringer swung from the rope each Sunday morning. A woman moved down the aisle toward me wearing an old-fashioned cotton dress with lace around the throat and hem. Most of the folks on the mountain wore clothes that were old and out-of-date, so I didn’t give her much thought. The woman had red hair wrapped in a knot on top of her head.
I stood so as not to scare her since I had been sitting in the shadows. But the woman only looked through me. – Faith Dobbins, Part Two
Hite’s e-book, Lowcountry Spirit, which came out in August, continues in the tradition of Black Mountain with three slave girls with mystical powers living on an eerie island off the coast of Georgia. Emmaline, Celestia and Liza are briefly mentioned in The Storycatcher as slaves and best friends who lived on Black Mountain.
It seems Hite won’t be getting Black Mountain out of her system anytime soon. As some of the folks there would say: ‘The mountain is alive as me or you. If you listen, you can hear her breath. You can feel her moan. Once you get her in your blood, they’re ain’t no leaving. No matter how far you go it’s the only home you’ll ever know.’
Chat with Ann Hite from 1-2 CST time today using the hashtag #southernlit. Join our chat room by clicking here. We’ll also be giving away a copy of The Storycatcher during the chat. All you have to do is participate to win!