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Author Archive: "Amy Greene"

Underwater Home

I was born and still live in rural East Tennessee. I grew up on Mountain Valley Road, surrounded by foothills and farmland, rocky creeks pouring into muddy rivers. I spent my childhood exploring the piney woods behind the house my grandfather built. I spent more than one hot afternoon working alongside my mother in tobacco fields, plucking hornworms from the plants. We East Tennesseans form a deep attachment to our land, going back to when our ancestors were sustained by what they coaxed from the soil. As a writer, both the beauty and the hardship of Appalachia have been a source of inspiration to me. In my first novel, Bloodroot, these mountains became more than a setting. The landscape of home became like another character.

When I began a second book, once again I found inspiration in my own backyard. Long Man is what the Cherokees called the Tennessee River, with his head in the mountains and his feet in the sea. I chose to give the fictional river that flows through my novel the same name. Having been raised in East Tennessee, I'm familiar with the dams ...


There is a story my mother likes to tell me over and over. When she was a little girl, a witch lived down the road from her. The witch's name was Huldie, and she read the fortunes of her neighbors in the coffee grounds left at the bottoms of their cups. She was rumored to float through the holler woods at night with the soles of her feet not touching the ground. In daylight, my uncles threw rocks at her shack in a clearing so shady that no grass would grow there. My mother would run past Huldie's place on the way to school each morning with her head down, sure the old woman would be standing in the roadside weeds waiting to snatch her up. She and my aunts were warned by their parents to keep away from Huldie. My mother was small and scared enough to mind them, but my aunts were older and braver. They knocked on Huldie's door and gave her trinkets in exchange for having their fortunes told. Now my aunts have both passed away and they never spoke of what Huldie saw in the bottoms of their cups. But I can always imagine.

Growing up in Appalachia, I've heard about witches and fortunetellers and ghosts my whole life. I suppose it's only natural that magic would find its way into the stories I write. In Bloodroot, Huldie takes the form of Lou Ann, a hateful crone who makes love potions and charms for neighbor women desperate to bewitch a man, to have a child or lose one, to be granted long life, or for someone else to die. Lou Ann also puts a curse on her cousins that won't be lifted until there's a baby born in their line with haint blue eyes. It's said that haints (what we call spirits, here in the mountains) are unable to cross water, and this limpid shade of blue is intended to fool them away. One day, a baby is born with those haint blue eyes — a girl called Myra Lamb — who ends up causing so much heartache that her family doubts the power of haint blue to ward off evil spirits and curses. But there are many people where I come from who still believe in it. Driving the back roads of East Tennessee, I've seen more than one old house with its flaking doors and windowsills painted that color.

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