An interview with Teri Brown, Author of Daughters of Green Mountain Gap

Author of Daughters of Green Mountain Gap

Short Bio: Born in Athens, Greece as an Air Force brat, Teri M Brown came into this world with an imagination full of stories to tell. She now calls the North Carolina coast home, and the peaceful nature of the sea has been a great source of inspiration for her creativity.
 
Not letting 2020 get the best of her, Teri chose to go on an adventure that changed her outlook on life. She and her husband, Bruce, rode a tandem bicycle across the United States from Astoria, Oregon to Washington DC, successfully raising money for Toys for Tots. She learned she is stronger than she realized and capable of anything she sets her mind to.
 
Teri is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author who loves word games, reading, bumming on the beach, taking photos, singing in the shower, hunting for bargains, ballroom dancing, playing bridge, and mentoring others.

  1. If you had to describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Giving. Optimistic. Loving.

  1. Congratulations on the success of “An Enemy Like Me”! Winning awards such as the Literary Titan Silver Award and BookFest Awards 2023 – 1st Place, among others, is a remarkable achievement in just one year. How do you feel about the reception and recognition your book has received?

I stand in awe at the accolades An Enemy Like Me is receiving. It is so humbling to realize that I created a story that resonates with readers. To me, that is one of the best parts of being a writer – having my words connect with readers causing them to laugh, cry, and think.

  1. The title, “Daughters of Green Mountain Gap,” is intriguing. How did you come up with the title, and what significance does it hold for the characters and the narrative?

I have such a difficult time coming up with titles. It seems almost impossible to sum up an 80,000-word book in five words or less!

Originally, I saved it as “Mountain Healer” but never really considered that a title. I thought about things like hands, mountains, rivers, healing, granny women, and patchwork, but nothing felt right. When I sent the book to my publisher, I was calling it “The Healer’s Apprentice.” Although the title was okay, it wasn’t special – and my editor agreed. So, I took it to my readers.

I made a few suggestions and asked them to vote on the suggestions as well as give me their own. I wanted something with the “Flower Moon” in the title because it holds a special significance in the book. Unfortunately for me, a book with flower moon in the title was just made into a movie. I knew I didn’t want to compete with that. I also realized that I couldn’t have a title with “Granny Woman” because there are so many articles out there on real granny women. Once again, trying to compete on Google with that would be difficult.

My readers mostly voted for Daughters of the Mountain, but once again, I felt that was okay but not great. Then a reader said that most mountains have individual names. Yes, the mountains were the Appalachian chain and in North Carolina are referred to as the Blue Ridge, but that each hill often had a name known locally.

Because I love to research, I looked up mountain names in Yancey County, North Carolina. My characters lived about five miles outside of a little town called Burnsville, so I started looking at the names within a five-mile radius. When I saw Green Mountain Gap, I knew I had the title!

  1. What motivated you to write about the clash between traditional folk remedies and modern medicine? How did you navigate the complexities of presenting both perspectives without favoring one over the other?

The entire idea started with a wart. I had one on my thumb that my primary care doctor wouldn’t remove. Instead, she wanted me to see a specialist. I used a patch, instead. A few weeks later, I was chatting with my brother and complaining about the state of healthcare. I mentioned my wart, and he asked, “Why didn’t you have someone talk it off?”

I had never heard of such a thing and didn’t believe he was telling me the truth. After our call, I looked it up and found that there are people who can talk off warts – and more. The research was fascinating and led me to the mountains of North Carolina and the healers known as granny women.

One of the reasons I find this fascinating is that I’m currently trying to help my husband who was diagnosed with brain cancer. So many of the medications used cause him such terrible side effects, so I began looking at things like nutrition, massage, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. I’ve found that a combination of modern medicine and more traditional medicine can be beneficial.

Whenever I look at a topic, my goal is to present as many sides as possible – without a specific conclusion. I want my readers to decide for themselves. In Daughters of Green Mountain Gap, it is about medicine. In An Enemy Like Me, it is about what makes an enemy and the effects of war. In Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, it is about xenophobia and national pride. In all three, I try to look at things from multiple points of view.

  1. The intricate dynamics within the McCoury family are a central focus. How did you build the relationships between Maggie, Carrie Ann, and Josie Mae to reflect the complexities of family ties, especially in the face of differing beliefs and values?

Although my characters are fictional, the family relationships are not. I use my relationship with my children, my mom, my brother, and even aunts, uncles, and cousins to help me write. I also look at relationships I see with others. I think it helps that I studied both psychology and sociology in college.

  1. The book addresses issues that are still relevant today. How do you see the themes of racism, fear of change, and loss of traditions playing out in contemporary society, and what do you hope readers take away from these reflections?

All you have to do is peek at social media to see these themes playing out in society. There are so many “isms” and “phobias” that separate people into groups based on skin color, place of origin, belief systems, and more. Generally, the world feels as if it is breaking into an ‘us against them’ mentality, except you never know when you will be an us or a them.

The same holds true for fear of change. I live in an area where I often hear, “We’ve always done it this way.” It is important to grow and change. What we have today is not the same as what we had twenty years ago, nor will it be the same as what we will have twenty years from now. Of course, traditions are also important. Just because we are growing and changing doesn’t mean we have to throw away the entire past. There is a beauty, as well as a lot of practicality and wisdom, in traditions.

I hope readers consider a few things. Firstly, how can they find similarities in people or ideas that are different from what they’ve encountered before? When we look for similarities, we can rid ourselves of hatred and fear. Secondly, I hope people will consider holding on to the good things from the past while letting go of those that aren’t as productive. With medicine, for instance, there is no need to throw out all the things learned for generations about healing. On the other hand, there is no need for bloodletting and opium use for diabetes now that we have insulin.

  1. Can you share any memorable moments or challenges you faced during the writing process of your latest book? How did these experiences shape the final narrative?

I am what most writers refer to as a pantser. This means I write by the seat of my pants – in other words, without an outline. For me, I let my characters dictate how they evolve and where the story will go.

In Daughters of Green Mountain Gap, I was about 55,000 words into the manuscript, and my characters insisted on a difficult situation. I didn’t like it and wanted to think of a way around it. However, after almost six weeks of feeling blocked, I realized I needed to write the scene. I had hoped writing it would lead to a less difficult solution. However, once I wrote the scene, the rest of the story opened up. I knew exactly what needed to happen next and how it would end.

I worried about the difficult scene and what others would think. So far, I’ve received nothing but praise. I learned that I really need to listen to my gut when writing.

  1. Your previous book, “An Enemy Like Me,” had a recognized best book cover, and “Daughters of Green Mountain Gap” features a beautiful cover as well. Can you share insights into your strategy for designing book covers, ensuring they capture the essence of the story and resonate with potential readers?

Book covers are about as difficult as titles! Once again, you are trying to capture the essence of an entire book with a picture.

Daughters of Green Mountain Gap is about three generations of women. Should the cover show all three? Should it show healing? Should it show mountains? Should I focus on the color green? Should it be realistic or more abstract?

Thankfully, Atmosphere Press provides me with an amazing graphic design team. I showed them some covers that felt good to me and explained what I liked about them. Then I gave them my vague ideas about the cover. They provided several options and worked with me to fine-tune the cover until I had what I wanted.

Once I had three potential choices, I sent them out to my readers via my newsletter. Overwhelmingly, they chose the one that became my cover.

  1. Do you have other writers in the family and friends?

There are no other writers in my family. However, my grandfather, before he died, wrote down a lot of family stories. My brother is also an amazing oral storyteller, though not by profession. I think weaving stories definitely runs in the family.

Since writing my first novel, Sunflowers Beneath the Snow, I have created an entire community of writer friends. I love discussing the ups and downs of writing – and knowing that I am not alone in the endeavor!

  1. Comparing “Daughters of Green Mountain Gap” to “An Enemy Like Me,” how do you see your growth as a writer, and what elements do you think contributed to the success of your latest work?

With each manuscript I complete, I am learning to use the written word to better tell a story. I’ve continued to develop strong characters while strengthening the sense of place. I also show my reader things rather than tell them. My first manuscript would say that a character felt scared. Now, my reader learns that my characters heart races and beads of perspiration form on their brow.

  1. Do you have any upcoming projects or works in progress that you can give us a sneak peek into?

I am about 30,000 words into my next manuscript that is a complete break from anything I’ve done in the past. This new story is a contemporary humor with a side of romance, and it is a single point of view written in first person present tense.

I got the idea for this story by wondering about a book I read as a child, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. We follow Margaret through puberty and all her questions. As I’ve navigated getting older as a woman, I wondered what happened to Margaret. And my story was born.

Margaret now goes by Peg. She is recently separated, dealing with a career disruption, and trying to date again – all while experiencing menopause. I’m excited for this manuscript because it has been a challenge to write something so completely different.

  1. As an author who has received recognition in various literary awards, do you have specific goals or expectations for your new book?

Of course, I would love for Daughters of Green Mountain Gap to win awards and gain international attention – maybe even become a movie. However, most books never gain that kind of popularity. So, being more practical, I’d love to see this book help me grow my audience. Most importantly, I hope the book touches my readers in some way.

  1. Lastly, What advice would you give to aspiring authors who aspire to create impactful and award-winning historical fiction like yours?

Write! Start now. You will never get better at writing by thinking about it or reading about it. Once you’ve got something written, show it to others and listen to their feedback. Readers can help you understand what you can do better to make the story flow and be memorable. Finally, remember that once you’ve written a book, you’ll have to market it. So, start marketing now. Let others know you are a writer. Give them a peek into your writing process. By the time you have a book for them to read, they will be more than excited to do so.

Step into the world of “Daughters of Green Mountain Gap,” a story about three extraordinary women in North Carolina. Follow Maggie, who believes in ancient healing, her daughter Carrie Ann, who trusts modern medicine, and Josie Mae, caught in between. Explore the clash of traditions and science, shedding light on family dynamics, racism, and the challenges they face at the turn of the twentieth century. Dive into this captivating journey by grabbing your copy on Amazon today!

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