On Sept. 14, Wise Writes, Appalachian Writing Project and the UVa-Wise Lecture committee welcomed bestselling author Amy Greene to the UVa-Wise campus to discuss and read an excerpt from her novel, “Long Man”.
“I grew up on Mountain Valley Road, if the name tells you anything about the landscape”, said Greene. She is an East Tennessee native who was born in Morristown, Tennessee. Greene’s novel recollects what life is like growing up near the Great Smoky Mountains. Both “Bloodroot”, Greene’s first novel, and “Long Man” are works of Appalachian literature that pay homage to what life is like in the Appalachian region. The importance of community is a prevalent theme in her writing.
Greene writes about the area she grew up in because it helped shaped the author she is today. She says, “The landscape of Appalachia has been a huge source of inspiration to me.” Along with community, she talked about how place was important to her. Like Greene, most Appalachian natives understand what it was like to grow up in the mountains of Appalachia and how special they are.
Greene grew up minutes from the Tennessee River, which was the setting for “Long Man”. Greene says, “The name Long Man comes from what the Cherokee Indians call the Tennessee River.”
Greene’s historical inspiration for the setting and plot of the novel comes from her grandparents on both sides of her family who survived the Great Depression. She recalls that she first heard about Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal from stories they told about the Tennessee Valley Authority.
When speaking about what it was like to grow up nearby Cherokee Lake Greene says, “When the water was low you can see the tops of silos rising out of the middle of the lake. It’s haunting. I think I was about nine years old the first time I really noticed those silos and I asked my mom what they were, and she told me there was a town buried underneath the Cherokee Lake”
As she grew older, Greene began to research the Tennessee Valley Authority and it served as inspiration for her novel. “Long Man” is a historically accurate novel that takes place in the Tennessee River Valley during the Great Depression in the summer of 1936.
The Tennessee Valley authority was set to flood the town of Yuneetah, but the main character Annie Clyde Dodson was determined to keep that from happening. During the time she was resisting leaving her home, her three-year-old daughter Gracie mysteriously disappears.
The idea of Dodson’s character was born out of the research Greene found written about a woman who refused to leave her home during the 1930s when the TVA came to East Tennessee. The woman had stood up to the government with a shotgun and insisted she was not leaving her home.
Greene says she put a lot of her own self into the character of Annie Clyde by giving the character her own ideals of “fear of a big government machine that steamrolls individuals, put my fierce love for my children into her, my attachment to home and my heartbreak and the thought of ever losing it.”
She wanted the character of Dodson to be tough and human. The excerpt she read from “Long Man” shows how unfaltering Annie Clyde is and how successful Greene was at portraying the woman just as she wished.
Her fondness for the area she was raised in is evident when she speaks and even more apparent in her writing. Greene is a brilliantly descriptive author. She is currently working on her third novel “The Nature of Fire”.
Greene and husband Trent Thompson helped cofound the non-profit organization Bloodroot Mountain. Their website bloodrootmountain.org is set to go live on Oct. 1 of this year.