Getting the idea for The River Witch was, like everything else in writing, a teeth-gnashing, crazy-making process. I was completely in love with the idea and lolling around my bedroom floor listening to Richard Marx, sobbing because I couldn’t get it to commit. (If you don’t know who Richard Marx is, you really need to read this book and then call me. We’ll talk.)
*No, Richard Marx is not actually in this book. No, his music did not influence or inspire me, although I was very much inspired by an almost forgotten music called Sacred Harp. Alas, Richard was a metaphor. I’m southern. We do that a lot.
In all literary seriousness, I read this article about a couple of women who decided to open a pumpkin farm. The pictures were gorgeous. I imagined the heart-stirring music of the mountain band and the warmth of the community round the harvest table. Everywhere, there was this beautiful, round, sumptuous fruit; these gourds and pumpkins, round and full and smooth. It was such a compelling illustration of fertility. Just the things a lost woman like Roslyn Byrne yearns for as the main character in The River Witch.
*Yes, I did get pregnant with my third child right about then. Probably just from looking at these pictures.
Then one day, about a year later, I saw another report. This time they were showing people floating down a river inside giant pumpkins that had been rigged up as boats. I got excited. I saw the element of water, the continuity of cycles and the ecology of a Sea Island with its rivers and marshes and the hold-outs from a disappearing culture. And I wondered, what would I see if I was a little girl without a mother – or a mother without a child? And then ten-year-old, audacious, motherless Damascus Trezevant started talking to me. From there, we were all carried away on an ancient current, so to speak.
What evolved was a story about surrender, a mystical southern tale set against the backdrop of the Sea Islands. But above all, The River Witch is about the difficult and profound choices we all make in the name of love. Because, after all, what else is there worth writing about?
Kimberly’s novel is this month’s featured book club selection. There’s still plenty of time to enter our giveaways–a southern gift basket loaded with goodies and a Kindle–see this post for details.
About Ariel Lawhon
Ariel Lawhon is the co-founder of She Reads, novelist, blogger, storyteller, and life-long reader. She lives in Texas with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.