I completed my manuscript and thought I’d share a bit of that traveled road.
About LIAR’S BENCH- When a lie seeps into the very heartwood of a town, soaks the beams and posts that hold it up from the earth, the rot sets to its work. So it began in 1862 when Mrs. Evelyn Anderson, mistress of Hark Hill Plantation reported she had been poisoned by her house slave, Frannie Crow.
But the truth will out as Truth seems to demand when more than a hundred years later, 17-yr-old Mudas Summers finds out that cockfights and whores may be today’s sins, but suspects they tie into yesterday’s sorrows—her mama’s mysterious death, and the hundred-year-old lynching of her boyfriend Bobby’s ancestor.
Running through the tale of two Kentucky hangings more than a hundred years apart is the story of Mudas and Bobby finding each other and themselves while forced to grow up fast in a time and place where the KKK is still a power, the South is struggling to find itself, women are exploring new freedom, and teenagers are caught between old and new ways of growing up.
Personal Writing Anecdotes: While writing LIAR’S BENCH, I experienced a lot of happenstance related to the work, which fueled me further. I’m not exactly superstitious, but I do enjoy feeling like the Universe is giving me a little nod of approval to keep me going.
One day I found myself needing to examine a Mason jar for a scene I was writing, but not just any Mason jar, nuh-uh, I had to get my mitts on a special 100-year-old Mason jar with a rusted thumb latch and glass lid. That afternoon as I stood looking out my cottage window contemplating what it would look and feel like; my husband ambled up the cobbled path from the barn to the yard, clutching two filled-with-dirt older-than-dirt Mason jars. He asked if I wanted them. Oh, man, did I ever! By day’s end, he’d unearthed thirty-one identical ones behind our barn. The Universe was indeed smiling down on me!
About characters: My main character, Mudas (Muddy Summers) receives a ’65 Mustang for her 17th birthday. My husband stumbled upon the same car in an old dusty barn at an auction taking place way off the backroads in rural Kentucky. Realizing his good fortune, the relationship with Muddy and her car, he bid and won it for my birthday shortly after I wrote ‘The End”.
The original owner of the ‘Pony’ gave us the records which showed where she received it on her 17th birthday— the same as Muddy. But it didn’t end there.
The old farmer who towed it up from the country to our house was from a small community called ‘Rooster Run’. Rooster Run is a fictional name I’d given to an important sought after ledger in my novel. To this day, I still cannot find such a town in Kentucky, only what is a very tiny community with a general store that serves as a gathering place which is termed Rooster Run by the locals who visit. And the Pony is now named FireRooster for sentimental reasons and for a rooster that struts through one chapter.
Regarding names: I use 85% of my ancestors’ names. And, I always wanted a simple name for my male character, intentionally settling on Bobby for such. No problem, right? Wrong. I almost changed the male character’s name many times, because my Word doc seemed to be possessed and simply wouldn’t have it. The demon Word taunting, constantly changing it from ‘Bobby’ to ‘Booby’ throughout. I could only imagine sentences such as “I love Booby” and “I felt Booby” etc. Then one day while driving down the road, I spied a yard sale and pulled over to kill time. There I found an old child’s baseball glove from the 60’s. It had my male character’s name, Bobby, scrawled sweetly across it, more importantly exactly what my Bobby would’ve used.
Amazingly, after I finished the manuscript I found out the last public hanging took place in Kentucky. (Rainey Bethea, August 14, 1936, Owensboro KY) I did not know that my husband’s grandfather attended the hanging.
Lastly: A friend in California sent me this lovely video about my mysterious and beautiful state of Kentucky by Eve Selis ,”Russellville” .
Indeed: ‘sometimes you gotta get lost, to make your way– to make your day … you don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been’.