“The wind whistled and tree branches chattered, but he did not perceive the voice of God. Time warped as he clenched his fists and shut his eyes. The judgmental wind rattled his bones. He shuddered and bolted back to the car where he started the engine, turning the heat on high. Billy sat immobilized for a moment. The sound of a passing truck nudged him forward. Life goes on, he told himself as he pulled back onto the road.”
My fourth novel is out. Titled “PIPELINE,” it breaks away from my previous Dinkel Island Series, moving to the Virginia mountains. It features events, tensions, and pressures of a community impacted by construction of a natural gas pipeline.
Some have asked, “Why did you write about this? Why didn’t you just stay with your series? I’ve been waiting to see what happens next with the characters in your other books. What gives?”
I wrote it because the situation intrigues me. Decades ago I did a sociology project in college studying life in a remote Blue Ridge mountain community. Life there was centered in shared history and primary face-to-face relationships. The people had always been self-sufficient, providing for their basic needs through local interdependence.
At the time of my study, however, the basic needs for food, clothing, employment, education and health services were supplied from outside their community in a nearby town. None-the-less, self-sufficiency was highly valued, creating resistance to the values of the larger culture surrounding them.
Two real-life Virginia natural gas pipeline projects, and resistance toward them, have been increasingly visible over the last few years. As I read and listened to debates about this issue, my mind went back to my college study. I wondered how people in that remote area would have responded had eminent domain caused disruption to their settled world.
I knew, in fact, that such had occurred when the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed. How would it play out if the issue was a pipeline in the setting of our current time? How would it feel to be part of that experience?
Using the templates of current pipeline issues and my earlier sociological study, I began to imagine a present-day isolated community, its people, history, traditions, and stresses in the modern world. Within that framework I designed the village of Strong’s Creek, and the adjacent, more isolated section called Frog Hollow.
Most authors write from the perspective of their own training and experience. Having spent decades as a local church pastor, I use that lens for my perspective.
In “PIPELINE,” a brand new pastor, Billy Upshur, is assigned to Strong’s Creek and Frog Hollow. He runs headlong into emotional reactivity toward the pipeline project. He also discovers much of the reactivity is centered around the house of an aging Cherokee healer whom everyone respects. Her house is threatened by the pipeline.
One of Billy’s early challenges is dealing with fear. Another is clarifying a faith perspective on the pipeline issue. Both tasks are embraced by scripture passages from Psalms 23 and Jeremiah 29.
“PIPELINE” has many twists and turns, folksy moments as well as dramatic, even violent times. Romance also comes to play when a local Frog Hollow woman, Cindy Barker, and Billy fall in love.
Writing “PIPELINE” was an intense emotional experience. I collected newspaper articles, consulted online sources, and shared excerpts with my two writer’s groups during the process. For a long time I could not envision exactly how these various strands would come together in the end. Then one day in early August, while doing my morning fitness walk, the wrap-up came clearly into my mind. While I had aimed for an early October release, I was now able to finish and publish a few weeks earlier.
“PIPELINE: A Novel” is available on Amazon in both e-Book and paperback formats. I hope you will be curious enough to get a copy and have a good read. Let me know your thoughts by writing a review for Amazon.
Blessings from Frog Hollow.