Granny magic, anyone? My guest today is sci-fi and fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers with her brand-new release, Cleaning House. I’ve read snips of this story in our Rainbow Snippets Facebook group and I’m looking forward to reading the whole story. More than that, though, Jeanne’s guest post fascinated me. Maybe because I had to leave the place where I was born to find the place where I was meant to be happy, I’m very interested in people who feel they can’t breathe right when they move away from their hometown. So why not follow along and see if you find Appalachia as fascinating as I do.
Thanks for having me today, Jackie. I appreciate having the opportunity to discuss my newest release, Cleaning House – A Contemporary Appalachian Fantasy. What I’d like to discuss today is Appalachia, the queer Appalachian experience, and Appalachian witchcraft as it applies to the novel.
First off, let’s talk about the word Appalachia. It’s pronounced Ap-pa-latch-uh, and if you say it another way it’s how we know you’re not from these mountains. We’re a complicated mix of Scots-Irish, British, German, and Native American traditions blended with Protestant Christian beliefs. We’re wary of outsiders, hard to get to know, but we’re resilient and tend to adhere to the “to each their own” maxim.
Appalachian natives are often misunderstood and commonly stereotyped by those who know very little about us aside from what popular media continually portrays. Queer Appalachians are a unique blending of resistance, acceptance, and perseverance. We have butch lesbians, enbies, a thriving though somewhat hidden transgender population, bisexuals, gay men, asexuals… We run the LGBTQIA+ spectrum like every other culture, whether they’ll admit to it or not. Queer Appalachians are as hearty as they come and, yes, it is entirely possible for us to be hillbilly, though generally in a liberal-minded sort of way.
Some queer Appalachians will never leave these mountains. Some leave and never come back – the negative experiences, especially in the backwoods, are just too intensely homophobic. But many of us, like myself, leave only to return because our lives aren’t right once we leave the mountains. Something is missing. We’re lost. Part of us dies when we leave, and we must come back to breathe right and be ourselves again.
Cleaning House is primarily set in Washington County, Tennessee, where I was born and raised. Some of the county, the part where I live, is foothills, while other parts, where I’ve lived in the past, are very much mountainous, Christmas-lights-on-the-pig-barn-every-December, intensely redneck. I’ve also lived, as an educator, in rural West Virginia, in dying coal country among the loving, desperately poor, wonderfully diverse people there.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to discuss the use of Appalachian Granny Magic alongside European and neopagan witchcraft in Cleaning House. While Appalachian Granny Magic has ties to both European and Native American traditions, it has its roots in Protestant Christian beliefs. The characters in Cleaning House embrace both Granny Magic and witchcraft in the form of paganism because their family lineage has embraced both paths, creating a unique belief system that is on the rise in Appalachia. Many Appalachian witches are as likely to call on the Holy Trinity as they are to call on Gaia or the Goddess, a seeming conflict, but it isn’t to the practitioners. They plant by the signs, use native species for divination and herbal medicines, and commonly employ the Bible for bibliomancy*, so why wouldn’t they pray to the God of their raising alongside the gods of their path?
Yes, I’m an Appalachian pagan, and I too, am a mix like the characters in Cleaning House. I believe in magic. I’ve experienced the paranormal in many forms. I walk my own path as a solitary witch. I am a mix of Christian and many other beliefs. I’m also queer, a pansexual woman just like the protagonist in Cleaning House, Centenary Rhodes.
If you see a theme developing here, you’re right. Cleaning House comes from my heart as well as my creative mind. I know there’s magic in these mountains because I’ve experienced it firsthand, and I’m proud to be able to share it through the Appalachian Elementals series.
*Bibliomancy is the use of a randomly chosen sentence or passage within a book to predict the future.
Centenary Rhodes is an old soul with a well-traveled name, but she doesn’t know this yet.
Growing up in southern Appalachia wasn’t easy, so Cent left home as soon as she could, but the post-collegiate happiness she’d expected has never occurred. She can’t find a decent date, much less find that special someone and, after losing her job in a corporate downsize, she’s struggling to meet her most basic needs. Her car has been repossessed, her bills are piling up, and her questionable North Chicago neighborhood is dangerous to navigate.
Returning home to Hare Creek, Tennessee, never crosses Cent’s mind until her Great Aunt Tess contacts her with an offer she can’t refuse. The family’s southern Appalachian homestead must be sold, and Aunt Tess needs someone to clean it up. Cent will have access to Aunt Tess’ garden and truck and can live on the homestead rent-free for as long as it takes. A part-time job is waiting for her as well.
It’s a chance to solve some of Cent’s financial woes, but will her return be enough when evil sets its sights on Embreeville Mountain and the homestead?
Cleaning House is a carefully woven Appalachian tapestry of granny magic, haints, elementals, and the fantastic diversity of the human condition – served with a side of fries and a quart of peach moonshine.
About Jeanne G’Fellers
Born and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.
Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with her spouse and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.
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