When 'Deliverance' Meets 'Invasion
of the Body Snatchers'
For Boone, NC, author Scott Nicholson, the Southern Appalachian mountains are a playground rich in folk tales and colorful legends. But its also a place where the old and new battle each other, sometimes to the death.
Nicholsons new novel, "The Harvest," uses suspense, horror, and a sprinkling of science fiction to explore the conflicts of growth versus preservation. When an alien entity lands in the rural Appalachians, the residents of the nearby town of Windshake find their way of life threatened by something beyond their comprehension and control. Neighbors turn against one another as a strange infection spreads.
Tamara Leon, a college psychology professor, receives telepathic messages that make no sense. Chester Mull, a moonshine-swilling farmer, is suspicious of the green glow in the woods behind his shack. Herbert DeWalt is a disillusioned millionaire whos desperate for spiritual truth. The three team up to take on the alien in a remote forest where even nature itself seems to be an enemy.
"The Harvest is on one level an allegory for the impact that progress has had on the rural mountains," Nicholson said. "As an Appalachian native, Ive witnessed the changes that have swept many of the old traditions away, and not all the changes have been good. In fact, to my mind, very few of them have been beneficial. Its easy for people who have lived here for 20 years to feel like theyve been invaded by something they cant understand and are powerless to stop.
"On another level, though, The Harvest is an entertaining thriller that twists the hillbilly stereotypes around. I call it Deliverance meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, but in my novel, the banjo boy would be the good guy. I can relate to the banjo boy. Its the outsiders and intruders that you have to keep an eye on."
Nicholsons first novel "The Red Church," inspired by an old haunted church near his home, was a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award and was selected for three book-of-the-month clubs. He often uses the mountains as a setting, coining the term "Appalachian Gothic" to describe his work.
"In some ways, Im telling modern mountain folk tales," he said. "Its the kind of stuff youll hear around the campfire: a little bit of the supernatural, a dab of romance, and a healthy dose of suspense. Theres usually a lesson involved, but a storytellers most important job is not to bore the audience."
Nicholson studied Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina and Appalachian State University. He wrote numerous short stories, though he had several hundred rejections before his work began to sell regularly. In 1999, he won the grand prize in an international writing contest and later published the story collection "Thank You For The Flowers." He also teaches workshops and has posted numerous articles about writing at www.hauntedcomputer.com.
Nicholson is grateful for the opportunity to serve as an advocate for the Appalachian region. "Sure, theres a perception that were a bunch of barefoot hicks who dont appreciate civilized society," he said. "But the regions settlers were highly adaptive, self-reliant, and creative, though theres also an ingrained suspicion of city folk. Just because we tend to talk a little more slowly doesnt mean we dont do a whole lot of thinking.
"I hope my novel reflects some of those characteristics, because I think the message is important. Maybe its silly to use mass market fiction as an agent of social change, but at least Im basing my work on a way of life that I see every day. I'm the 'Deliverance' banjo boy with a typewriter. Plus Im having a lot of fun sharing these stories."
Nicholson is an amateur folklorist and ghost story collector and works as a newspaper reporter. Hes currently writing a haunted house novel called "The Manor" that will be released next year.
High-resolution color author photograph available at http://www.hauntedcomputer.com/media12.htm
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