Vicki Lane: Appalachian folklorist
Excerpts from the interview by Lynn Kaczmarek in the August/September 2008 issue of Mystery News
About 15 years ago I discovered Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels and fell in love with the history and the mystique of the people who populate the Appalachian Mountains. What wonderful stories these were, set in the present with roots in the past and just a touch of magic realism. The last of that series was published in 2003 and McCrumb moved on to mysteries set in the world of NASCAR, an unfortunate turn of events, in my mind. But actually, you'll see how that decision might have led to the publication of a new Appalachian mystery series by an incredibly wonderful writer in her own right-Vicki Lane.
It was June, 2003 and Vicki Lane (using her married name, Vicki Skemp), together with co-author Karol Kavaya, had just published a quilt book entitled Community Quilts. "I was at a book fair and Sharyn was there and at this point I had an agent and she was sending this book [a mystery set in North Carolina] around and we kept getting all of these nice positive rejections. And I approached Sharyn and gave her a copy of my [quilt] book because she talks about quilts in her books a lot and told her what a big fan I was. And she just immediately said 'I want to get you to make me a quilt.'" And she wanted a Dale Earnhardt quilt to take with her on her St. Dale tour. I made her a wall hanging Dale Earnhardt quilt " and just a few months later Vicki's agent found a publisher and her book was published with a blurb from Sharyn McCrumb. Not a bad way to begin...
Why writing, and why at age 62 you ask? "I was an English major and in college I thought I would like to be a writer. I sent a poem to The New Yorker and they rejected it and so I thought, well, OK, forget it. So I just got into teaching and marriage and then we moved to our farm and I just didn't think about trying to write until When the quilt book came out, my co-author said there's going to be a class at the local branch of the Asheville Community College and it's called 'Writing Fiction that Sells.' And she said 'I'm signing up for it," and I said 'Me too!'"
Perhaps even more so than many authors, Vicki Lane is inspired by her surroundings. The Drover's Road, just about two miles from her driveway, was the inspiration for In a Dark Season. "We had been here for probably 10 or 15 years before I even knew about it. Downtown Asheville has these sculptures of turkeys and pigs and things and I wondered why do they have that here? I was just so busy when we moved here. We had a milk cow. You don't go far when you milk a cow twice a day. I was just totally ignorant of so much of the area beyond our farm."
These books are just filled with images...Vicki lives in a beautiful area-over 100 acres with two rental houses inhabited by her two sons. You can see her world on her website www.vickilanemysteries.com and on her blog, available on the website. She's doing some interesting work there-taking and publishing photos of the things that inspire her work and writing short vignettes that she says may appear in future works.
Read the complete interview in the August/September 2008 issue of Mystery News