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Sunday, January 10, 2010
A Trip to Boone by Elizabeth Zelvin
Elizabeth Zelvin is a New York City psychotherapist who writes mysteries about recovering alcoholic Bruce Kohler and his friends. The new one, DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM, is in stores now. The first was DEATH WILL GET YOU SOBER. The series includes three published short stories, one nominated for an Agatha award. Liz’s author website is www.elizabethzelvin.com. She blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters.
A Trip to Boone by Elizabeth Zelvin
Everybody on DorothyL, where I met Kaye Barley, knows that Kaye lives on a mountaintop in Boone. I don’t know why I assumed she lived in Kentucky, unless it’s the legendary Daniel Boone’s connection with that state. There’s a Boone County, Kentucky, but no town of that name. Nope, our Kaye lives in Boone, North Carolina, one of my favorite states and one that nowadays is chock full of writers. It’s in the mountains at the western end of the state, around two hours’ drive from Asheville and twenty minutes or so from Blowing Rock.
I got this straight after a couple of North Carolina writer friends, Maggie Bishop and Schuyler Kaufman, got me invited to Boone to speak to a group called High Country Writers in November, during my tour of North Carolina to promote my new mystery, DEATH WILL HELP YOU LEAVE HIM. It was a flying visit—is there any other kind on a book tour?—and Kaye, as it happened, was slated to be out of town for the twenty-four hours I was there. But more than thirty writers showed up to hear me talk about how to write about social issues—without getting preachy.
I write about recovery from alcoholism and codependency—or in the vernacular, booze and bad relationships, which I’m sure are as endemic in North Carolina as in my own New York or anywhere else on the planet. Social issues? Well, no one can deny that addictions and domestic violence are social issues. But they’re always deeply personal as well. On topics I’m passionate about, I’m tempted as I write to mount my hobby horse and ride madly off in all directions (to paraphrase Stephen Leacock). My first drafts are preachy as all get-out. So the one word “how-to” on the subject is: Revise! Being a gabby New Yorker, luckily, I found lots more to say.
My honorarium for the event was a night on a mountaintop, not in Boone, but in Blowing Rock, a spectacularly beautiful dot on the map with a 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and winds so fierce that it’s said that in winter, the snow flies upward. The rock itself comes with a legend that involves the ubiquitous Indian maiden—though I liked the local twist, which included the boyfriend, not the maiden, plunging off the rock and a happy ending when the updraft blows him back into her arms.
I stayed at Gideon Ridge Inn, an upscale hostelry a short stroll away from the actual rock, where my private stone terrace had a breathtaking mountain view. I spent most of the rainy afternoon curled up in a wing chair by the fire with a pot of tea and a plate of little sandwiches and homemade mini pastries close at hand. The massive carving in the picture isn’t a totem pole, it’s the southwest post of my four-poster bed. And the photo shows no more than one-quarter of my room.
In the morning, the rain had stopped, and I got a good look at Blowing Rock with plenty of photo ops. Then I drove down to Boone to give my talk. Afterward, the writers took me out to lunch in town. I’d expressed a preference for the local cuisine, ie barbecue, so a bunch of us piled into a down-home bistro with a snarling representative of the local fauna hanging over us as we ate. He must have been a critic in another life. My only regret on leaving Boone was that I couldn’t stay longer. I’ll have to go back some day—and if I’m lucky, Kaye will be home.