THE BOOK: Them That Go
PUBLISHED IN: March 2016
THE AUTHOR: Becky Mushko
THE EDITOR: Several Beta Readers provided input regarding events in the story, but Sally Roseveare was the final proofreader.
THE PUBLISHER: CreateSpace
SUMMARY: A secret revealed, a mystery solved, a life forever changed.
In 1972, seventeen-year-old Annie Caldwell, who has the “gift” of animal communication, wants to be normal, but she’ll settle for being unnoticed. Annie’s brother died in Vietnam, her mother is depressed, and her father drinks. Her only friend is elderly Aint Lulie—who lives in the same holler and understands the gift because she has one, too: “The first daughter in ever’ other generation has always been blest with a gift, though some think it a curse.”
As they sit by the fireplace in the evenings and tell each other stories, Aint Lulie shares family history with Annie, including a relative’s mysterious death and how some of their ancestors came to settle in the area: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.”
When a local girl goes missing, Aint Lulie’s and Annie’s gifts can help solve the mystery—but if Annie speaks up, she can no longer go unnoticed.
Them That Go is an Appalachian coming-of-age novel rich in tradition, superstition, family ties, and secrets.
THE BACK STORY: Eight years ago, Them That Go started as a YA novel about a rural 17-year-old girl in 1972 whose ability to communicate with animals sets her apart from her peers but helps her solve a crime. I submitted the first few pages to a panel of agents and editors at a writing conference and was told YA readers don’t care about the early 70s and my characters were stereotypes. I abandoned the project until a few years ago when I changed it to a book about an animal communicator who solves mysteries both as a teenager and an older woman. That version was a disaster. Finally I realized the story needed to be about more than just a girl’s isolation or special ability—it needed a stronger sense of place, a sense of her ancestors’ lives, a connection to past and present. It needed a richer texture, with more Appalachian flavor. Some minor characters became important to the plot, superstitions and traditions became more significant, a few new plot twists appeared, and Annie grew and matured as a character. I also realized Annie was not only a product of the 70s and a rural area, she was also the product of the generations before her. Aint Lulie, with the family stories she told Annie, became a more important character.
On Facebook last July, I mentioned the 104th anniversary of my great-aunt’s mysterious death that older members of my family wouldn’t discuss, and the Botetourt County Genealogy group provided her obituary that gave a clue. With a little help from cousins and FaceBook friends, I figured out a possible reason for this great-aunt’s death. One cousin said I should write a book about it, but it wasn’t enough for a book. However, the incident fit nicely into Them That Go, so I fictionalized this ancestor’s story and based a character on her.
Them That Go—which evolved into a coming-of-age novel, a mystery, and an Appalachian novel with paranormal overtones—now appeals to a much wider readership than just YA.
WHY THIS TITLE: When I became interested in family genealogy last year, I learned a lot of my ancestors had moved across Virginia—the English ones came westward from the Tidewater area, and others came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania or diagonally across Virginia from Maryland. Some stayed where they originally landed, but some in each generation moved a little farther. After the Revolutionary War, some received land patents and moved their families to the new territory. But in every generation, some would stay and some would go. I used the staying/going idea in Them That Go, when I had Aint Lulie explain to her great-niece how some of their family ended up in the mountains while others stayed back in Botetourt County: “There’s always been them that go and them that stay in ever’ generation.” While the novel has characters who stay, it also has some who go in one way or another.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Them That Go will appeal to those who like Appalachian culture, who enjoy storytelling and folklore, and who like a paranormal twist. Although set in the early 70s, Them That Go deals with issues that are currently important: parents protesting curriculum, the influences of literature on life, a girl’s disappearance, a presidential election, decision-making, and the importance of taking responsibility.
REVIEW COMMENTS: An Amazon review: “Was inspired to keep reading to see what happened next. . . . It reminds me of being back home on the mountain. Check it out!”
Another Amazon review: “A novel that speaks truly of the times and the places in Southwest Va. For anyone familiar with this area, the novel really strikes home.”
From Goodreads: “I believe this book is comparable in quality to Baldacci’s Wish You Well and would be enjoyed by the same readers. I rated Them That Go with five stars and hope others will find this book and have the same positive reaction to it.”
AUTHOR PROFILE: Becky Mushko, a retired teacher, is a three-time winner of the Sherwood Anderson Short Story Contest and a five-time winner of the Lonesome Pine Short Story Contest. Her first novel, Patches on the Same Quilt, won a 2001 Smith Mountain Arts Council contest and was self-published with a generous grant from SMAC. Cedar Creek Publishing published her Appalachian folktale, Ferradiddledumday (2010), and her middle grade novel, Stuck (2011). She has e-published several collections of short stories. Her work also appears in A Cup of Comfort for Writers, Vols. I & III of Anthology of Appalachian Writers, and many other publications. As vice-president of Lake Writers, she’s served on the editorial committee for all three of the group’s anthologies—Voices from Smith Mountain Lake, Nekkid Came the Swimmer (the worst book about Smith Mountain Lake ever written), and Reflections on Smith Mountain Lake.
AUTHOR COMMENTS: Them That Go was influenced by my interests in genealogy, old-timey stories, Appalachian culture, fairy tales, folktales, ghost stories, and Shakespeare. Although set in the early 70s, the novel involves issues that are still relevant today—a girl’s disappearance, literature’s influence on life, parents protesting a curriculum, a Presidential election, and a student using skills learned in class.
SAMPLE CHAPTER: (Provide link). http://www.beckymushko.com/newbook.htm
LOCAL OUTLETS: The General Store and Southern Roots at Westlake (Moneta, VA); Virginia Office Supply in Rocky Mount, VA.
WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Amazon.com. Kindle version available at http://www.amazon.com/Them-That-Go-Becky-Mushko-ebook/dp/B01BTHSBDK; print version available at http://www.amazon.com/Them-That-Go-Becky-Mushko/dp/1523750251
PRICE: $10 for print; $3.99 for Kindle e-book.
CONTACT THE AUTHOR: http://www.beckymushko.com
becky.mushko (at) gmail.com