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 She blogs on Poe’s Deadly Daughters.

(where Liz does her writing)

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.


jenny milchman said...

What a terrific sounding trip, Liz--spectacular country, writers to hang out with, not to mention, bbq, pastry, and finger sandwiches in a luxurious abode! (Can you tell I'm a little green?) I have a psychotherapy background myself and your books sound great. I will check them out--while I dream about making the kind of trip you just did one day...

Vicki Lane said...

Hey, Liz! Glad you got a nice taste of our little bit of heaven that is western NC. I wish I were nearer to Boone and could have come to your do but I'm not nearer to anywhere, alas.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I first got my yearning to spend some time in North Carolina--which is a lot bigger than I thought--from Margaret Maron's books. East of the mountains, I got to Greensboro and Winston-Salem and Raleigh and Charlotte, and will have to go back to spend more time not only in those places and Boone and Asheville, but also to the coast, which I missed altogether this time. Now I know for sure that it's within driving distance of New York....