When I began writing this series, I had an idea for each book that I presented to my publisher when I handed in the proposal for In High Cotton, book 1. But each book was intended to stand alone. The characters in the second book, On Sugar Hill, are new.
However, in the third book, By the Sweet Gum, coming out in March 2022, I was writing a scene and realized I wanted Maggie and Sadie from the first book to be in the scene. So, I gave them a cameo appearance. Now, as I write the fourth book, Up Level Creek, several characters from On Sugar Hill show up in the story, since the fourth book takes place in Sugar Hill, too. Are you confused yet?
While this series is historical, it takes place in 1929-1932, so dialogue wasn’t hard. Perhaps some people talked a little more formally than we do today, but not a lot. I did pull a few slang words for the young people to use.
The most difficult part was the research. For the first book, I used a fictional town, so research was general. I learned some interesting things, like most rural areas of Georgia didn’t have electricity until the 1950s! Atlanta and the larger towns did. Some smaller towns did if they had a mill in the town with hydroelectric.
But when it came to Sugar Hill, I hit some roadblocks. My hometown was not incorporated until 1939. That’s the reason for the title of On Sugar Hill instead of In Sugar Hill. Before 1939, there was no official history. What is now the City of Sugar Hill back then was a militia district. The closest city, Buford (which today shares its zip code with Sugar Hill) didn’t include the militia district in its official history. The county listed the streets and schools, but that’s it. And since most were dirt roads and not paved until many years later, it’s hard to find a lot of information. One good rainstorm could change the topography of a road.
I had to rely on the oral stories of families who had lived here for generations. The folks old enough to remember the details of 1929 have either passed on or are too ill to be interviewed (of course, Covid didn’t help). Their children, however, have told me many their family stories.
One character (both in real life and in my book) was Rocky Venable. I first learned about Rocky through our theatre company performing cemetery tours in Sugar Hill. For some reason, Rocky fascinated me. Then, I met his great niece through church and learned more about him. I couldn’t leave him out of my story.
Because of the sketchy history prior to 1939, I’ve had to—or been able to—take some literary license as to who owned what store and exactly where it was placed. Hopefully, nobody will object and simply enjoy the story of On Sugar Hill.
I try to use real people as often as possible, when their families give me their blessing, knowing I won’t tarnish their memories. You’ll meet Rocky Venable, and Melvina Hosch in the latest release.
Another name of someone very dear to me is Bug Pugh. Bud appears by name in nearly every book I write. He was a great encourager to me. When I was the creative arts director for our church, one of my jobs was to recruit actors for the annual Easter or Christmas pageant. Have you ever tried to enlist people for those? Ninety percent of everyone gives a resounding no. But not Bud. He always said yes. He loved being in them. He was so enthusiastic, I learned to ask him first. It always started the project off on a positive note. He’s now passed on to Heaven, but I love to keep his memory alive and honor him. To me, no book is complete without his delightful self in it.
I’m truly enjoying writing in the late twenties and early thirties. I plan to camp out here for as long as stories show up on my doorstep. Lately, I’ve started doing a some of my writing at our town’s newly opened history museum, run by the Sugar Hill Historical Society. If you’re around our neck of the woods, be sure to stop in and say hey. We’ll show you around. Our downtown is one block long – but it’s a packed one block.
Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her website, Amazon Author page, Facebook, BookBub, Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, and The Write Conversation.