A Local Writer’s New Story Depicting Mysteries in the Mountains
Eva McCall, a local writer from Franklin, has enriched and gifted thousands of her readers with stories from the North Carolina Mountains, allowing a glimpse of her family’s history as well as combining fact with fiction. Now 16 years after the release of her first novel, Edge of Heaven, McCall has returned with a new fictional book, filled with murder, mystery, and moonshining.
McCall’s new novel, Murder on Haint Branch, is set in Western North Carolina during the early 1940s, a story based on a true life event from her past. “The Idea for the writing of the book was born out of conversation with author Shelia Kay Adams,” McCall said. “I was telling her about the death of my uncle in 1942. I said, ‘They said he shot himself but you don’t shoot yourself with a shot gun and lay it back down on the bed by your side.’ Adams said, ‘That’s your opening line.’” McCall said after that conversation, the story took a life of its own and her characters “told her” the story.
She is no stranger to writing, releasing Edge of Heaven in 1997, which featured her grandmother, Lucy Davenport Carpenter. In 2002, McCall finished Children of the Mountain, a sequel to Edge of Heaven, depicting Lucy in her later years, McCall’s father, as well as McCall’s first years. Lucy’s Recipe for Mountain Living, her latest published book, was a team effort with her sister and included daily devotional types of stories featuring Lucy’s style of cooking for the large family she had. McCall says that writing these books gave her the opportunity to relive the stories that were told by her grandmother, as well as educating her younger family members about their history. “This is an important part of their heritage that they would have never really looked at if it had just been in family research,” she says, “But with the books, they will read and feel a part of it.”
McCall is a native of Franklin, spending her early years on “Carpenter Mountain,” as she refers to it in her books. After graduating from Franklin High School, she attended Pfeiffer College near Charlotte. After her marriage to George McCall, they moved to Flint, Mich., where he worked at General Motors and she became a beautician. During her time in Michigan, she began to attend writing workshops which propelled her to start writing her earlier novels. Now both retired, Eva and George returned to Franklin where they enjoy volunteering, attending community events and where Eva has written her recent works.
Barbara McRae, columnist at The Franklin Press and editor of Murder on Haint Branch, believes that McCall’s experience in the mountains allows her to portray accurate details, and combine it with her imagination. “Eva McCall grew up in the Southern mountains in tough times, during the years after World War II. She brought her insights as a writer to bear on that period. Her characters ring true, and they embody aspects of many of the mountain people.”
After years of appealing her new book to publishers, and waiting on their long reviewing processes, McCall said, “I decided I’d be too old to reap any of the benefits. After all, birthdays don’t stop just because you’re waiting for something special to happen.” So she made the decision to self publish. She gave the manuscript to her promotional manager to review, who felt that the issues presented in the book were not only relevant in the forties, but also in the present. She hired members of the community to review, edit, and design a cover. She also created the publishing name “Moonshine Press.” After half a year of hard work, McCall feels that the latest book is ready for release.
Throughout McCall’s years of writing, and during the production of her latest novel, she has received praise from individuals across the region, including country icon Dolly Parton. After receiving permission from Parton to include her comments on the new cover, McCall couldn’t believe it. “The truth is, it feels like it is happening to someone else, and I’m watching it from the outside, something like watching a movie,” she said. “I think this is good because it helps keep me focused on what my goal for the book is.”
Both McCall and McRae believe that fictional novels such as Murder on Haint Branch are paving the direction to how the historical Appalachian region is being presented in modern times. “I feel like this book gives a true picture of the way life was for the Appalachian people,” McCall said, “And it will help the reader to understand more of why life is the way it is now, especially college students and for people not from this region.” McRae agrees, saying that Appalachia in the forties has not been fully explored. She also says that books like McCall’s are pointing the way.
McCall is very optimistic about the direction of her new novel. She has hopes for it to sell well, and dreams of it becoming a best seller or a film adaptation. But her simple goal, she says, is to have the story touch someone’s life and making their day better. Regardless of how things turn out, McCall says that her journey isn’t over. She says that she has another novel also ready for release, a Civil War novel that she wrote many years ago. And as for new ideas, she says that she is “getting itchy fingers to write something else.”
Murder on Haint Branch is now available in all stores.
Tyler Cook is the nephew of Eva McCall, and has been involved in the production of Eva McCall’s Murder on Haint Branch.