I was first drawn to Georgia Ruth's story, “Dead Man Hanging”, by the location. My father's family has deep roots in western North Carolina, especially Asheville (which gets a mention). As I read it, though, I also became impressed with her ability to create a sense of the era and the people who lived then and there. I could really picture Main Street in Marion, NC, in 1916.
Why did you choose a historical genre for a mystery that could be put into any setting?
I now live in the foothills of North Carolina where my neighbors describe location based on the history of a building. As some of these folks trace their roots back to Wales in 1100 AD, the glimpses of past lives have given my life a new perspective. I am comfortable hanging out with ghosts.
How did you come up with the idea for “Dead Man Hanging?”
First I was overwhelmed by the devastation of the flood of 1916. Then I researched oral accounts of its effect on local lives in Marion of McDowell County, and I saw photographs of sections of railroad buried in mudslides. During that time I attended a neighborhood gathering where ghost stories were told, and I learned that the junior high school was haunted. My curiosity also picked up a rumor of a hanging decades ago in the downtown Eagle Hotel where today the current coffee shop owner often hears strange noises. My reaction was why? What causes so much stress? But it wasn’t until a year later that these experiences came together when I put pen to paper. I am an organic writer and start without an outline. Somehow Daniel Kanipe became part of my story, probably because I weekly pass by and admire his beautiful historic home. He was a survivor of the Little Big Horn, but I put words in his mouth and gave him another life as a detective in this story.
Did you encounter any obstacles in researching the setting?
The haunted junior high was built on the site of a real orphanage, where I imagined a private graveyard. In all probability, everyone was buried in the city cemetery on the next hill. After I wrote the story, I drove through town to test my possibility of “what if?” I drove the streets now surrounding the school, and there on a knoll overlooking the junior high I glimpsed a few broken tombstones in a tangle of weeds. I didn’t knock at the door of the old house nearby because the grave was part of my mystery not the history. To myself I proved it could have happened.
Are you working on other historical stories?
My blog at http://www.georgiaruthwrites.us is almost always about the fascinating history of my neighbors. On other projects, I am looking for a home for my fiction story “A Simple Life” about descendants of a survivor of a legendary Indian attack on Fort Pleasant Gardens. In March, I have a speculative story “The Mountain Top” coming out in a Sisters in Crime anthology Fish or Cut Bait. History that hasn’t happened yet! I predict that stories in History and Mystery, Oh My! will be enjoyed by readers of all genres. I am pleased to be included in this anthology.
You can also see more of Georgia Ruth's work now in That Mysterious Woman, the fourth mystery anthology in the Shaker of Margaritas series.