Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Interview with Katherine Scott Crawford, Author of Keowee Valley

Please join me in welcoming author Katherine Scott Crawford to Let Them Read Books! I was privileged to receive an advanced copy of Katherine's debut, Keowee Valley, but I read it during a chaotic time that resulted in me not being able to review it in a timely fashion, though I very much enjoyed it and I wanted to give my lovely readers an introduction to this book! I'm a proud Virginia native, but half of my heart belongs to South Carolina, and I gobble up historical fiction set there, especially in the Colonial/American Revolution era. And Katherine is a doll. Through talking, we discovered our mutual love of South Carolina and ACC football--though we're friendly rivals--she's a Tiger, I'm a Hokie. Read on to learn about the making of this gorgeous love story and then enter to win one of four copies of Keowee Valley up for grabs!

Spring, 1768. The Southern frontier is a treacherous wilderness inhabited by the powerful Cherokee people. In Charlestown, 25 year-old Quincy MacFadden receives news from beyond the grave: her cousin, a man she’d believed long dead, is alive—held captive by the Shawnee Indians. Unmarried, bookish, and plagued by visions of the future, Quinn is a woman out of place… and this is the opportunity for which she’s been longing.

Determined to save two lives, her cousin’s and her own, Quinn travels the rugged Cherokee Path into the South Carolina Blue Ridge. Defying her furious grandfather and colonial law, she barters for leverage against the Shawnee with a notorious Cherokee chief—and begins building a daring new home in the Keowee River Valley, a fiercely beautiful place.

But in order to rescue her cousin, Quinn must trust an enigmatic half-Cherokee tracker whose loyalties may lie elsewhere. As translator to the British army, Jack Wolf walks a perilous line between a King he hates and a homeland he loves.

Together they journey across the Appalachian Mountains and into the heart of Cherokee country. They encounter wily trappers, warring Indians, British soldiers, desperate settlers, and a contested backcountry on the brink of changing forever.

When Jack is ordered to negotiate for Indian loyalty in the Revolution to come, the pair must decide: obey the Crown, or commit treason…

Hi Katherine! Thank you for taking the time to appear on Let Them Read Books. I very much enjoyed Keowee Valley

Thank you so much for having me here. It really is a treat. I'm so glad you enjoyed Keowee Valley!

Your heroine, Quinn McFadden, is a combination of so many things, a forerunner of the modern woman with an extrasensory twist; did you draw any inspiration for her from real life?

In so many ways, Quinn popped into my imagination fully-formed. I'd been dreaming of telling the story of Keowee Valley for years, and had seen her in my dreams since I was in elementary school. I didn't know what her name was or what she was doing there, but I knew two things about her unequivocally: that she was a stranger in a strange land (the wild Carolina backcountry), and that she loved that land just as much as I did. We are a bit similar in that we both share an incurable love of knowledge and books, and have no interest in convention. She's impatient, like I am, but she's also much braver than I am. I've always longed for the type of adventure that she has. And, to be honest, when I was younger I always longed to find a man who loved those things about me. (Thankfully, I found just the man. And so did Quinn!)

And what about her man, the rugged and sexy tracker Jack Wolf? How did he come to life in your mind?

Jack walked into my imagination by emerging from the shadows at the bottom of the old oak and crossing Tomassee Creek, just like he did when he entered Quinn's world. He, too, sort of refused to be a typical hero. Everything about him is a bit of a conundrum: he's half-white and half-Cherokee, he's Irish but speaks with a mix of a Scots-Irish accent (because his mother is Irish but he was taught English by a Scottish priest). The fact that he's a "halfbreed" means he's often looked down upon in the white world. He works as a translator for the Crown but basically abhors the idea of British rule. He's so cool and collected--very laid-back--but inherently he's a dangerous man, and can be brutal when need be.

Every time Jack opened his mouth in the novel, he tended to surprise me. That was fun.

This is such a tumultuous time and place in history, exciting and dangerous at the same time, full of conflicting loyalties and clashing cultures. What sort of challenges did you face in writing a novel set in the backcountry of South Carolina on the cusp of the American Revolution?

The beauty of this time on the South Carolina frontier (and in Western North Carolina and modern-day Tennessee) is that there's so little record of what was really happening, which makes it ripe for fiction. So I could take the story almost anywhere I wanted it to go, which was great fun. But I'm a history dork, and I did my research. Pretty much all we really know about the Cherokee country during the 1700s we get from British army records--basically dry accounts of the number of Cherokee villages, how many people (especially men of warrior-age) lived there, what they grew, what kinds of weapons they had, etc. The Cherokee didn't have a written language yet; like so many Native traditions, their history was oral. I took the Cherokee stories and married them with what I knew of the history of the colonial Carolinas.

But the Southern Appalachians were the Wild West of the 1700s. The backcountry was full of wild water rivers, huge trees, wolves, elk, eagles, mountain lions, and a powerful, mysterious, and very dangerous people in the Cherokee. Revolutionary battles didn't reach the frontier until later in the war, and when it did it turned the tide of the Revolution. But there was so much going on between the settlers and the Cherokee, and the British army was continually trying to barter with the Cherokee to garner their favor in the war to come.

I spent six to eight months on research alone before writing the majority of the novel, and then researched throughout. I read a couple of really neat personal journals: one from a soldier on the frontier, another from a traveling minister. But besides that there're just really not that many primary resources from the period. I think it was equal parts challenging and exciting, because I could really let my imagination run.

You have painted Keowee Valley so vividly in the novel that it seems to become an all-encompassing character in itself. What draws you to the valley, and how did it influence the way you wrote the story?

Thank you for saying so! I've been in love with the Southern Appalachian mountains since I was a child. I grew up spending a ton of time at my family's lakehouse, which sits right in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains--they sort of spring up out of the end of the lake. I spent my childhood exploring the land, paddling the rivers, hiking in the forests, and learning everything I possibly could about the Cherokee Indians who'd lived there long before I had. I went to college nearby, and paddled, hiked and camped whenever I could. Then I worked as an outdoor educator and backpacking guide in those same mountains and well into the Great Smokies.

All of these experiences absolutely influenced my writing. I'm never so much at home as when I'm in the woods. My Scottish ancestors on my father's side settled in the mountains of Western North Carolina in the 1700s, and I'm still finding out just how connected they possibly were to the land and to the Cherokee people. So the mountains are truly in my blood and in my bones.

And finally, the ending seems to pave the way for more adventures for Quinn and Jack. Will there be a sequel?

When I wrote Keowee Valley, I planned for it to be the first in a series of three books. I definitely plan to continue Quinn and Jack's story. But in the years since I finished the novel and it sold to a publisher, so many things have happened--the publishing industry continues to change and challenge, I had two children (I have a four-year-old and a ten-month-old), I'm in graduate school, I teach on the college level, and I just started writing a newspaper column. So my writing is so much more slower going than it was when I wrote Keowee Valley! (For one thing, when I wrote it I was a newlywed and didn't have kids yet!) Definitely slower than I want it to, and I know much slower than my readers want it to! I hope they'll hang in there.

Currently, I'm working on a Civil War-era novel that stars a young woman who's a descendant of Quinn and Jack--a sort of Southern Jo March (a la Little Women). I'm working on that in my graduate program, and I'm hoping that'll come out first, maybe within the next year or two. I'm one of those writers who needs quite a bit of percolating time . . . you know, sort of staring out the window and doing a lot of imagining. Unfortunately, two children under the age of five don't really let you stare out the window for long.

A Southern Jo March? We'll be on the lookout for that!
Thanks, Katherine!

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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And now for the GIVEAWAY!

And what a great one it is! Two lucky US readers will score paperback copies of Keowee Valley, and two lucky International readers will score ebooks!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this interview with your email address (or an alternate method of contacting you should you win). That's it!

This giveaway is open until 11:59pm Tuesday, March 25, 2014. Winners will be selected at random. Good luck!


  1. What a wonderful post. Fascinating and special. Thanks for this giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  2. Enjoyable interview. The author sounds so interesting and is talented. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

  3. Loved the interview. I would be honored to own a copy of this book. I have had it on my TBR list for a very long time. Your next book sounds like my kind of read also. I have been reading more historical fiction based in the US lately and have really been enjoying them. Thanks for the great giveaway.

    tmrtini at gmail (dot) com

  4. This sounds like a wonderful adventure and it takes place in a part of the country I've never been to. I think my wife and I would both enjoy the trip. Thanks for the chance to win. carlscott(at)prodigy(dot)net(dot)mx

  5. I love how this one sounds, and since I love series and trilogies, I'm hoping the author continues. The southern Jo March sounds intriguing also. Thanks for the giveaway.

  6. I'm a North Carolina native and am particularly fascinated by the colonial time period and ethnohistory/cultural relationships in the area. I've been so excited about this book since I first heard it was coming out and would love to win a copy!

    bookwormsusanna AT gmail DOT com

  7. I would love to read. It sounds very interesting. It is my favorite time period for romance novels. Thanks for an opportunity to win.


  8. I live in South Carolina and just this morning I was looking at the arrowhead I found in my yard (I live in the city) thinking about the Native Americans who once populated this area.
    Theresa N


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