Is there a story behind Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar?
Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar began as a short story assignment for a creative writing class at the University of South Carolina over ten years ago.
Our instructor told us to place ourselves, along with some of our friends, in a foreign environment and to step back and see what developed.
I chose the porch of a retirement home because a standing joke, among a group of my friends and myself, was that one-day we would end up living in such a place together.
Before I had written two pages the characters, with their unique names took on their own personalities. I was fairly new to such writing adventures and was taken aback. They began to assert themselves and I decided I needed to pay attention, to listen and watch—for my scenes often unfold like a movie in my mind’s eye.
The short story ended when Agnes slipped out the back door of Sunset Manor, the name of the retirement home at that time. Then I began to ask questions. What if she . . .
I wish I could be more like my protagonist, who is outspoken and spunky, but she has taken on some of the aspects of my mother’s spirit. Writing fiction is such fun!
Agnes Hopper’s story continues to evolve and surprise me. I am delighted to have a part in the telling of it.
Interesting! What started you on your writing journey?
I began writing twenty years or so ago and an instructor named Trish became my Barnabas. She taught a class for seniors in the community at one of our local hospitals. I called to sign up and was told I didn’t qualify. I wasn’t old enough. Imagine that. But I kept calling until the lady on the other end relented and said, “I guess we can let you come.”
I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was fifty-two years old. Trish taught two classes, one creative writing, the other autobiographical. I first began writing the family stories—and I had plenty of material. Daddy thought everything I wrote was wonderful while Mother was horrified. She often said, “We don’t have any secrets any more.” I think I get my exaggerating traits from her.
Trish told me to keep writing. She helped me get my first tiny article published about my daddy’s Appalachian humor. She believed in me. I give thanks to the good Lord for her. Everyone needs a Barnabas.
What distracts you from writing the easiest?
Social media. J If I’m not careful, it can eat up my time and energy and I have no creativity left inside my little brain.
What kind of books do you enjoy reading? (Book recommendations very welcome!)
Historical fiction: March by Geraldine Brooks and The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Biographies: Living Like Lions by J.R. Duren
Bible study and Christian personal growth books:
Places People Pray by Karen Appleby and Enduring Faith by Nivine Richie
Which character in your new release most interested you while you wrote? Why?
I like Jack because he is complex and he is sometimes misunderstood.
Oh, he sounds great. Hope I get the chance to read that one too! If you were a style of music, what style would you be?
Bluegrass. Because it reminds me of my heritage, growing up in coal mining camps.
:) What makes you smile and/or laugh out loud?
Remembering my daddy’s Appalachian humor
What is your favorite season of the year?
Fall with its crisp air, colored leaves, and hot spiced tea
Mine too! What do you like most about the area where you live and/or grew up?
The mountains have always been a comfort to me, evidence of God’s majestic creation.
Ahhhh . . . Are there things you put off doing because you dread them?
Share a verse or Scripture passage with us that is special to you. (and why it's special)
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me. He drew me out of deep waters.”
The place of reference escapes me right now, but I will find it. This is what the Lord did for me. Without his mercy and grace I would have drowned. 2 Samuel 22:17 NIV
That's a really good scripture verse. I like it a lot because it reminds me of how much God has done for me. When is your next book due out and can you tell us about it?
Writing the second book about Agnes now. She gets into more trouble when the owners of Sweetbriar Manor decide to sell the home and the interested party, representing a women’s prison, wants to turn the retirement home into a halfway house. And then one night there is a fire. . . .
You're a new author to me and I can't wait to begin reading this book. Thanks for joining us.
Buy her book here:
Carol Heilman, a coal miner's daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer's son. She began writing family stories, especially about her dad's Appalachian humor, for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, "We don't have any secrets any more!"
Carol's book, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, was inspired by her mother's spunky spirit and her dad's humor. She lives in the mountains of NC with her husband of fifty-plus years. They love to play cards, go antiquing, hike, and visit grandsons on the east and west coasts
Connect with Carol here:
Author Page: amazon.com/author/carolheilman
CAROL is giving away a copy of AGNES HOPPER SHAKES UP SWEETBRIAR. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.