Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia

Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia I recently bought this little book from It's a collection of essays about how McCrumb became a storyteller, her family background, the Celts who settled in Appalachia, and her thoughts on writing historical fiction.

I've been a Facebook fan of McCrumb's for a long time and had felt I was really getting to know her that way, but this book told me so much more. Now I feel like I know why she writes the kind of stories she writes; she comes by it naturally since it's a long family tradition. They told stories through songs frequently, and she still uses music to set her mood as she writes. In fact, she does a CD of appropriate music for the setting and the characters and the story before she begins to write. I find this fascinating.

McCrumb takes offense, and rightfully so, that her books are often shelved with mysteries. She doesn't write mysteries, she writes historical fiction that sometimes involves magical realism. Don't know what that is? She explains it beautifully in one of these essays.

Her books, especially the "Ballad" novels, are always best sellers. Now you can read this 65 page book and learn why they are so good and so readable and so much fun to read.


  1. According to David Hackett-Fischer (Albion's Seed), that's where most of the Scots-Irish border people went when they immigrated here. Sounds like something that would appeal!

  2. I have read a couple of her novels, and though they are certainly historical fiction, I must say that I don´t see any offence in categorising a book as a mystery. Charles Dickens has written brilliant mysteries, and so have many other authors who are part of our curriculum of English literature.

  3. Jill, I read a book about the Scots-Irish by James Webb (who personally I can't stand) and I have another by James Leyburn yet to read. My mother's family were Scots-Irish: went to Ohio, then Illinois. My dad's family came directly from Scotland to, I believe, Kentucky (although they may have stopped over southwest of there) and then to Illinois. I'm very proud of them and figure that's where I got my itch to travel.

    Dorte, No offense intended; it's just her fear I think that she will be categorized and not reach the audience she intends to. I agree that many wonderful authors like Dickens have written mysteries.

  4. I know some writers have this fear, but my local library have noticed that crime & thrillers are what the readers want - so they put as many books there as possible. At least that seems to be their philosophy. So even though a few readers may be alienated by the ´mystery sticker´, I think the group who enjoy mysteries is much larger.

  5. I love Sharyn McCrumb and was lucky enough to meet her last year. She doesn't mind sharing her opinion with you!! She's coming for a Book Your Lunch event in October and I'm really excited about it.

  6. Kathy, I do wish I could be there for your Book Your Lunch event to meet Sharyn McCrumb. I've been an FB fan of hers long enough to know she doesn't mince words.