When I was writing Possum Creek Massacre, I was drawing from a lot of sources. Most of them unwritten. I did do a little research into the folklore of the area, and some into locales, although that was mainly to make sure there isn’t actually a town named Possum Creek in Kentucky (There isn’t, although it certainly sounds like you’d find it there).
Much of what I was drawing on was my brief experience living in West Virginia twenty-odd years ago, just on the other side of the Appalachian Mountain range from where I set Possum Creek. And on the stories my husband, best known here on the blog as my First Reader, and his mother have told me about Kentucky, their ancestors, and the lore of the country in southern Kentucky. It’s a rich source, and one I wanted to treat as tenderly as I could, for several reasons. One, I have come to love the people and land I was fictionalizing and writing about. Two, the Hollywood image of the backwoods hillbilly is a deeply toxic one to this day in a region that struggles to make ends meet and keep up with the rest of the world, and I did not want in any way to foster a continuation of that. Yes, I was writing from real life when I created a woman who had survived her husband of fifty years, having been pushed into marriage at 15 and no more than an 8th grade education. But that didn’t make her stupid, or less of a vibrant and accomplished woman for having only raised a family and been a pillar of her community.
The massacre in the book, as a historical event? Never happened. But there are stories of real things that did happen. I drew on those for the book. On the bloody Bender cabin, which was located on the then-frontier of Kansas, and the New Year’s massacre during the Hatfield and McCoy feud. The influences were loose, and more to set up the feeling of the story than to use historical details, which wasn’t what I wanted to do. Often I’ll soak up a lot of source material and it’s like making sausage – you don’t want to know what all went into that! I will say that listening to a lot of different true crime podcasts while I was writing this book undoubtedly influenced me as well.
The magic of Amaya’s world is where the real world and my fiction in the Witchward series diverge. Despite magic being rare, and relatively weak in power terms, in the stories it is everpresent. Which I worry makes it seem as though there is more magic in that world than there is. But it’s unavoidable, since Amaya can sense it, and her job has become more specialized to make use of this special skill of hers. If the central conceit of the Witchward tales is mysteries with a magic origin, then I am resigned to the overuse of it in them. As I often do, I use science to give rules and constraints to the magic. Linking it to DNA, as you may have read in Snow in her Eyes. Or determining where the power comes from to charge the wards that are so important in Possum Creek Massacre. It’s funny, since I often think that science fiction ought to come more naturally to me than fantasy. But here I am, writing fantasy again, and spinning a world from my imagination that contains magic.
I’m working already on the research for the next story. There will be a short, or a novella, that will take up immediately after the end of Possum Creek Massacre. Following that, another novel. And then? I don’t know yet. We’ll see.