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Research, but verify

Editor’s note: The final two paragraphs of this column were inadvertently omitted from the print edition on July 7, 2021. Here’s the column in its entirety. 

By Connie Denney

“Cold Night in August” is coming right along.  That’s not a weather forecast but, as promised in an earlier column in this space, an update on Erwin author Angie Georgeff’s novel-in-progress.

The retired library director decided on the forenamed title 20 years ago, almost as soon as she decided to write the book.  Set in the time period from World War I through the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, this piece of historical fiction has roots in her own family ancestry.  That is not surprising, given her love of genealogy.

An avid reader anyway, Angie says reading has a great deal to do with writing, especially historical fiction.  

“I have done a lot of research for my book, reading about relevant events and books written during the time my story is set,” she shared. “I value both the information and the perspective books provide.” 

She has added a number of books to her personal library, many about the Labor Day Hurricane, but also classics and popular fiction of the period covered in the book 1912-1935.

Wanting to avoid “stupid mistakes” concerning direction and scale, she ordered the Kentucky topographic atlas, which has been helpful.  As a matter of fact, she has atlases for several states where she has done research, and anticipates upcoming trips to locales, including the Florida Keys.

“Death and Dying in Central Appalachia” by James K. Crissman is a book she’s had for years, part of her genealogy collection.  As it deals with the history of funerary practices, she admits it is not easy reading, but illuminating.

Googling, too, has a place as a tool of research – such as asking when the card game Rook first appeared.  When son Andrew challenged her on that one, she could assure him she had already checked.

“The early years of the 20th century were a time of great change in Appalachia just as they were elsewhere,” she noted. 

This author wants to be sure people, places and events are presented in correct contexts.

True events provide background around which the work of fiction can be built to tell a story.  But research is not the only element employed.  Angie finds that the experience she has gained from living and observing has given her the confidence to fill in the blanks and flesh out the facts she has gleaned through research.

With this writing project well underway — 27 chapters worth — her writing schedule varies according to other claims on her time. Let’s stay tuned to learn the rest of the story on this one! Having referred to it as a “lifeline” during earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she says that is still the case, but these days the water is not quite so deep.

That being the case, let us all continue to stay safe.