First of all, congratulations on the publication of Briery Knob! Can you please tell us a little about the book.
"Briery Knob" is a true-life murder mystery. Two girls were killed in June 1980, as they hitchhiked to the Rainbow Family Gathering in Pocahontas County and it took over a decade for law enforcement to get to the point where they believed they solved the case.
"Briery Knob" is based on a true story, correct? Did you have a personal reason to write this story?
It's a fascinating, true story. It's not fascinating because I wrote it — it's fascinating because it's true. I didn't have an agenda for writing it other than to show one example of the racism and bigotry that still exists in Appalachia.
The murders happened in West Virginia about 40-miles from where I grew up in Virginia. People in that region still proudly boast the lack of racism and bigotry as they go about their day-to-day business, but the truth is, racism is the undercurrent which runs through daily life just beneath a thin veneer of respectability.
Your book deals with serious and tragic events. How were you able to successfully maintain a bittersweet tone throughout the book?
I'm not sure I did, but thanks for the compliment. I tried to reflect life in Appalachia and life there is bittersweet. The region was solidly behind Trump in the last election. They were so desperate for change they ignored all of the warning signs and plunged headlong into an administration that will ultimately destroy them.
The residents in Appalachia are perfect examples of people who mistook celebrity for skill and talent. But what else can you expect in a part of the country where more people can name the Kardashian sisters than can name their own elected representatives??
How did you come up with the title for your book?
"Briery Knob" is the spot near Droop Mountain where the murders were committed, and the bodies were found.
What feedback have you gotten about your book from readers thus far? If you haven't gotten any, how do you expect readers to react to your book?
The feedback has been phenomenal. Since you and I first spoke about this interview, a movie producer came across the book and has acquired the film rights. She has also lined up the movie's director, and I've Skyped with him, and he is also excited about the story's potential.
A documentation also read the book and has a documentary about the story planned for release sometime in 2018.
How did writing "Briery Knob" differ from your experience with your previous works?
I'm not sure that it differed — other than the format. Ninety-percent of my writing is about social justice issues and has appeared in magazines and media outlets globally. So maybe this is just a very long article.
What other writers do you like?
John Grisham. James Patterson. Tom Clancy. Those are a few of the well-known writers. I like Stephen King's book "On Writing," but I guess I'm too much of a "fraidy cat" to get into his other books — but I like them when they hit Netflix.
Igor Klopov is a great writer with a great story. You've never heard of him, but I predict within ten-years the world will be hearing a lot more about him, his life and his work.
Among my lesser known favorites are the relatively anonymous writers who labor on Medium.com every day. There are some amazing writers who don't get the publicity and the money, but they keep writing every day. They've got something to say, and they have powerful voices with which to say it.
If you could collaborate with another writer who would it be? Why?
Great question. I don't know. I don't ‘collaborate' well. I have my writing voice as do other writers. I'm also impatient, and I don't think I could tolerate the frenzied spurts of writing separated by weeks of idleness.
But if I had to choose, I think it would be Igor. With his background, knowledge, and experience, I believe that we could write a great book. Something along the lines of "Jason Bourne."
If you were asked to offer aspiring writers three tips, what would they be?
My tips would be cliches, but they're cliches because there is some truth in them.
1. Write every day.
2. Never think you're too old to begin, and
3. Accept feedback as you would fried chicken — consume what is beneficial and toss away the rest.
About the book:
“Briery Knob” is the story of a double murder in the backwaters of West Virginia, a town which closed ranks around the slayer and a serial killer who hatched a plan to get the real perpetrator freed and pocket $2 million of West Virginia’s money.
Nineteen-year old Nancy Santomero and twenty-six-year old Vicki Durian were two “hippie chicks” who hitchhiked to West Virginia’s Monongahela National Park in southeast West Virginia for a gathering of the “Rainbow Family.”
Picked up by strangers in a white van, the two were given marijuana and alcohol. When they found out they were expected to ‘pay for’ the moonshine and pot with sex, they refused and were killed.
White supremacist and serial killer Joseph Paul Franklin was executed in 2013. In the months before he died, Franklin carried out a scheme which would see the exoneration of the killer and a payoff of $2 million of the state’s money.
This story will bring to mind, for most readers, noted author, John Gresham.
There is a significant difference between “Briery Knob” and almost all of Gresham’s work.
“Briery Knob” is true.
About the author:
Jerry Nelson spends much of his time poking Trump’s meth-addled, uneducated fans with a pointy stick and is currently writing a book of muskrat recipes as well as a scrapbook of his favorite death threats. His life’s aspiration is to rule the world with an iron fist or find that sock he is looking for. Feel free to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments — or join the million (seriously) or so who follow him on Twitter @Journey_America.
Never far from his Marlboro’s and coffee, Jerry is always interested in discussing future writing opportunities.