Welcome Wednesday – A Trip to 1920’s Appalachia w/ Tonya Jewel Blessing

Author: Tonya Jewel Blessing

Genre: Historical Fiction, Devotional

Books: The Whispering of the Willows, The Melody of the Mulberries, Soothing Rain – living Water to Refresh Your Soul

“If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going on a trip.” (Appalachian Folk Belief) Plan your journey. The Melody of the Mulberries by @Tonya_Jewel travels back in time to 1920s rural Appalachia. #HistoricalFiction

A Trip to 1920’s Appalachia

Interview by Jenny Fulton

Tonya Jewel Blessing is an internationally known speaker, pastor, and author of three award-winning books. After years of ministering in the U.S., she and her husband now reside in South Africa where they serve and partner with local pastors and missionaries.

Although her life has taken her abroad, when it comes to writing, Tonya’s heart returns to her roots. Her Big Creek historical fiction series takes place in the Appalachian mountains.

“My mom grew up in the small West Virginia town of Big Creek,” Tonya explained. “She slept sideways in a bed with her sisters in a smoke house. Clothes were washed in the stream; soap was made from rendered hog fat; and water hauled from a pump in the yard. The outdoor privy was hot in the summer and cold in the winter. She loved the hills and instilled in me a curiosity about rural Appalachian life.”

As far as her own experiences go, Tonya shared that when she was growing up, she spent part of every summer in West Virginia.  

“The flora and fauna of Appalachia intrigue me,” she said. “There is unsurpassed beauty among the poverty and difficulty of rural mountain living.”

Loving an area is one thing. Translating that affection into the words of a story to be read and shared with others is another. Tonya acknowledged that writing these books wasn’t easy but was definitely worth it.

“Weaving a story is both challenging and entertaining. The process empowered me and has given me courage and confidence.”

As they’re transported into the backdrop of Appalachia, readers will discover such themes as the importance of family and community and the need to balance tradition with modern thinking.

“Within these books is an understanding that life is not easy but that there’s great worth in learning from the past, laughing in the present, and dreaming about the future.  And, most importantly, there is the wonderful reality and experience of faith in God that provides a firm foundation for living.”

“What do you hope readers come away with after reading your book?” I asked.

“I want them to believe there is always hope,” she responded. “Life is full of twists and turns, but without fail, redemption is available.”

Such great encouragement for then, now, and our ever-changing future. If you’d like to take a break from today and travel back into yesteryear, check out some of Tonya’s books. After all, as Tonya says, “Reading books opens our minds to knowledge, our souls to adventure, and our spirits to revelation.”

Book Blurb for The Whispering of the Willows

Young Emie isn’t desperate for a man, but she is surrounded by a variety of them in the Appalachian holler of Big Creek. How does a young girl find her way, and grow strong, when life begins to spin out of control?

Faith-the-Appalachian-way is draped in the camouflage of a small West Virginia community. There, a blossoming young woman has been traded into marriage by her superstitious parents who are desperately poor. When key individuals begin carving out a rescue plan, Emerald Ashby grows strong despite grievous wrongs committed against her.

Everything seems twisted when a community preacher connives with evil to trade a farmer’s young daughters in marriage for financial gain. Not all is lost when a brother, an aunt, a doctor and a sheriff decide to play a little game of poker on sacred ground. There, a handful of true believers work smartly to correct the scandals brought to light in the ailing town. Cleverly suspenseful and sweetly spoken, the storyteller’s unassuming voice creates an Appalachian trail of tears to holy terror against an evil that stalks the innocent.

Book Blurb for The Melody of the Mulberries

Coral sat in contemplation under a mulberry tree. It was spring, and the fragrant female blossoms promised the mid-summer arrival of first white, then pink, then crimson, and finally deep purple berries. The white berries were hard and tart and enjoyed by the quail, wild turkeys, mockingbirds, and blue jays. The blackish purple berries were soft and sweet – perfect for pies and jams.

When the berries turned white, Coral would thank the good Lord for providing food for the birds. When the berries ripened, she would thank the good Lord for the sweetness savored in her mouth and curse the birds for wanting more than their share.

Like the changing mulberries, Appalachian siblings Coral and Ernest Ashby, navigate life through the late 1920s. Coral is determined to visit the family nemesis, Charlie, who now stews in prison.

When Ernest’s previous love interest, Mercy, returns to the holler of Big Creek, she discovers that his heart is now singing a melody for Charlotte, the older Ashby brother’s widow. But Mercy has brought along her own spiritual tools and a special friend who guides her way.

Accompanied by friends and foes, matters of the heart complicate life for Coral and Ernest. Relationships must be journeyed carefully (from Amazon).

Purchase the Books

Award-winning historical fiction novelist Tonya Jewel Blessing shares about the inspiration of her books on Heart-Soul-Mind.org

Connect with Tonya



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