PREBLE COUNTY — The Fleming family has a long history of being Preble County authors. It began with Joyce Fleming who wrote human interest columns for The Register-Herald – that interest she passed down to two of her daughters who have recently published novels.
Grace Ann Fleming published a novel titled “Celebrity Wedding in Flowery Branch. The tag line is, “In Flowery Branch, Georgia, a macabre wedding plot threatens to expose a sweet, Southern murder secret.”
Grace Fleming grew up in Preble County, but moved to the south 30 years ago. She actually lived near the real Flowery Branch for a time. According to Grace Fleming, in this book she included all of her favorite things: a spooky southern mansion, a murder mystery, quirky southern characters, Burt Reynolds, and “spoiled brat celebrities.”
The novel was released this spring, but will be re-released this year under a publishing house in Savannah.
Grace Fleming’s book actually has one big tie to Preble County: A. Louise Pfoutz, who was an Eaton resident who passed away in 2014.
“There is one very special connection to Preble County in my book. The most beloved character is actually based on a Preble County personality. My character is named Betty Cracker, because she is a “cracker jack” aerial stunt pilot from the 1950s. She is based on Mrs. Pfoutz, a woman who used to fascinate me as she practiced her own stunts in a biplane overhead when I was young,” Grace Fleming said.
“I used to lay in the grass and watch Mr. and Mrs. Pfoutz do loops and dives, practicing for air shows. They’d also practice sometimes when I was on recess break at Lanier Elementary School. I was very inspired as a young girl by Mrs. Pfoutz, who also visited the school from time to time to talk about her world travels.
“I did grow up in Preble County, and I miss so many things about it. I expected to find wonderful county fairs and small town festivals in the South, but I’ve discovered that the sweet customs I grew up with were pretty unique to the area. I miss the snow and the Preble County fair. While the South has its intrigues, it lacks the rich character of farm life, great vegetables, and small town friendliness.”
As for her future plans, Grace is working on a paranormal book that is set in Ohio.
“I am working on something very different, and it does have definite connections to Preble County. This is a paranormal book, and my Sasquatch chapters take place in Ohio. Unlike [my sister] Mary, who writes in beautiful prose, I am a story teller with a knack for rather twisted plots. I’ll use a lot of familiar place names in that one. It is called Paranormal Solved, and it will be out later this year,” she said.
As for Mary Reed (formerly Fleming) her book “New River Rising” just came out in November.
The blurb reads, “Widowed Sadie Langley faces loneliness and financial ruin in a small community at the edge of the New River Gorge wilderness. She enters the working world and encounters both kindness and cruelty. Sadie finds the sudden socializing in the working world to be a chore until she is drawn out of her solitude by an unlikely but entertaining older man named Cyrus. She finds herself matching both wit and passion in an affair that polarizes the community. She is warned that a hot, quick fire will burn out too soon when she uncovers a secret affair in her family’s past. But the lovers’ intensity continues as they share both adventure and disgrace and Sadie is forced to move beyond her familiar rural world into the infancy of computers and technology. Against the backdrop of West Virginia’s urgent and dangerous white water, towering mountains, and the spirits of a disappearing culture, Sadie continues the intense and demanding affair while she shrewdly exploits her widowhood and her fascination with computers to build a career, gambling that enduring love may be found among the embers of a hot, quick fire.”
She says that the book is mostly about relationships between men and women and “the choices that some women make.” She has been inspired by New River Gorge ever since she was born near there and has several novels based in the same location.
While she was born in West Virginia, she actually graduated from Twin Valley South in West Alexandria.
“I have been active in my 50 year alumni group. I have always worked in the big city surrounding Preble County, haven’t done a lot of local stuff, but all my family graduated from Twin Valley South,” she said.
“The way that Preble County features in my novel, is that I have always been interested in older people and listening to their stories. Of course, I’ve picked up characters just talking to them. A lot of them are around the Eaton area and they are a lot of the farm community. I did work for awhile at the Livestock Auction, I was the clerk there, so I picked up a lot of local color down there.”
She is currently researching a book about crimes committed in Eaton, but cannot say much about that project going forward.
Grace and Mary, two of 10 siblings, were inspired by their mother Joyce and her writing career.
“She had more than one columns. The name that I remember the best was, “Down the Lane.” One of the stories was about the Rodeo Shop up on Route 40. That lady who originally started the rodeo shop, actually competed in rodeos. Mom had great pictures of her in there, and very interesting stories. She worked for the paper for several years.,” Reed said.
“She absolutely inspired me to be an author. She educated herself, she did correspondence courses to learn writing. She educated herself that way. While she was a stay-at-home mother, she educated herself, and then went to work at The Register-Herald.”
“My mom was always reading, when she wasn’t writing. She was the most educated person I know because of this, and her reading habits rubbed off on all of us. I remember once I was told (at a young age) that she’d written about me trying to make our dog eat with a spoon. What struck me at such a young age was the power of writing. People I would never know or meet might remember and chuckle at that little story forever. It was an awesome realization, and I think that is why I have always been a writer in some capacity,” Grace Fleming said.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH