Q&A: Sandra Robbins
Anna Prentiss just wants to be a nurse. But first, she has to finish her apprenticeship with a midwife in the Smoky Mountains. But this isn't just the stepping stone she expected. Love, despair, hope, and heartbreak are all waiting for Anna in Cades Cove.
WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION DRIVING THE STORY IN ANGEL OF THE COVE?
As a native Tennessean, I’m always fascinated by the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains and the blue mists that hang over their peaks and dip into the valleys. The Cherokee called the mountains shaconage, "place of the blue smoke", and the name fits them well. Today 9,000,000 people visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park annually, but within the boundaries of the park lies a story of loss, heartbreak, and exile that needs to be remembered.
Inside the park is the fertile valley of Cades Cove. It is described by one of the characters in the book like this: It’s almost like God just took His giant hand and tucked a little piece of heaven right down in the Smokies. The people who lived in the Cove were a hardy lot whose families had been there for generations. They lived in a close knit society that resembled a family. When the government began to buy up the land for the park, the people living in the Cove were forced to sell their farms and move off the land.
Having visited Cades Cove in the past and having glimpsed a way of life that passed out of existence, I wanted to tell the story of what life was like for the people of the Cove. Angel of the Cove is the first book in the Smoky Mountain Dreams series.
OVER THE COURSE OF WRITING THE BOOK, WHAT SURPRISED YOU THE MOST?
I think the thing that surprised me most was how much the characters came to mean to me. I loved Anna’s determination and her desire to help people who were suffering. Simon’s search for God’s plan for him touched my heart, and Granny stole my heart with her down to earth advice and unconditional love for everyone. Matthew Jackson, the young boy whose father is murdered, had a story that needed to be told, and he became the hero in book 2, Mountain Homecoming. Now that I’m finishing up the third book, the last families are getting ready to move out of the Cove, and I’m grieving right along with them. Of course the exile of my characters from the Cove takes place in the thoughts I’ve written down. I can’t imagine how terrible that experience must have been for those who really lived it.
WHAT PARTS WERE INSPIRED BY REAL LIFE (EITHER RESEARCH OR EXPERIENCE)?
The book tells the story of a fictional family who lived in Cades Cove. However, everything else had to be true to that time in history and to the events taking place in the Cove. Even though I have visited Cades Cove many times, I had to do a lot of research to make the story authentic. I have read books and articles about the Cove, and I have searched for pictures of the area on the internet and in books. The internet is a great tool for authors, and I’m thankful I had it at my disposal for I spent hours and hours searching through sites about Cades Cove.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT STORY IS SUCH A POWERFUL WAY TO COMMUNICATE TRUTH?
People like to be entertained. Jesus knew this. That is why He used stories (parables) to teach those who followed Him. He gave us the greatest truths that we will ever know, and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to pass them on by including them in the stories God lays on my heart. I have said many times that I pray the words God gives me will be like the seeds of a dandelion that fly away in the wind. I don’t know where the words will land, but I pray they find fertile ground in someone’s heart.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THAT READERS GET OUT OF YOUR WORK?
The premise behind the story of Angel of the Cove is that God has a plan for our lives. When we open our hearts and embrace His will, we find the greatest happiness that we’ll ever know. Anna and Simon both looked for God’s will in the wrong places. When they discovered what His plan was, they realized it was better than anything they could ever have dreamed for themselves. I hope my readers will open their hearts to God’s will and allow Him to lead them to their place of true happiness.