December 2019 – THE INTERLUDE

This month I’m writing about the 12th and final book in the Smoky Mountain series. It  seems incredible to me that twelve books in this series, once just a dream and a vision, have now been published and loved by so many. Thank you all for reading and loving these books set around the Great Smoky Mountains I love so much.

THE INTERLUDE is set in the Greenbrier Pittman Center area, just a short distance east of Gatlinburg on Highway #321. For my story in this book I needed an area at a little distance from town where I could create a wonderful mountain resort, first established in the early days before the Smokies became a national park. Drawn from the memories of many beautiful Appalachian resorts we’ve visited and loved, I created the fictitious Millhouse Resort with a lovely rock lodge and restaurant, an old historic mill, cottages, pool and tennis courts, a tea room, golf course, hiking trails, and more. The resort belongs to the Wingate family, who have lived and worked in the resort since its earliest days…and Beau and Nonnie Wingate still welcome guests to the resort with love and affection.

Mallory Wingate, Beau and Nonnie’s granddaughter, has spent many summers and holidays with them—and comes to them as a young woman, as this story begins, for a needed rest after a breakdown. Too much care with a dying mother, too much stress, work, and heartache led to her breakdown, which by necessity, has sent her away from her job as an editor with a publishing house to recover and heal.

On the plane, hoping only for quiet, Mallory sits by a handsome, charismatic young man, a golf pro, traveling back from an event. Despite her reluctance to be congenial, he charms his way into her company—drawing her into a flirtatious interlude that Mallory enjoys, despite her problems. Of course, she never expects to see the man again—but to her shock, he shows up at her grandparents’ home the day after she arrives, and she learns he’s the resort’s golf pro! And so the story begins.

Mallory has a troubled heart and needs healing—but as the story progresses the reader soon learns that Lucas James has his own problems to overcome, plus a young daughter to raise. Suzannah, only five, was a joy to create—and she and many other side characters will soon draw you into their hearts, lives, and troubles.

As a psychologist, and as a prof teaching many psychology and counseling courses over the years, I know how people often carry limited knowledge and misconceptions about mental health problems. From minor issues to more serious ones, these create problems not only for the people experiencing them but to the families close to them. And several different types of mental health concerns find their way into this story…along with a series of troubling thefts occurring at the resort. Are they related or singular? And who is behind them?

Reviewers noted the mental health issues in some of the book’s many reviews:  “The Interlude emphasizes and demonstrates the importance of family … Stepp’s background in psychology no doubt played a part in both illuminating the emotional problems Mallory and Lucas had as well as providing believable solutions.” – B. Mushko, blog reviewer … In The Interlude “ serious mental health issues including bipolar disorder, suicide and mental breakdowns are addressed, and this is excellent. It’s so important to shed more light on these conditions to remove the stigmas attached to them… The Interlude … is a heartwarming thoughtful story.” – J. Lynn, Amazon reviewer

Many happy pleasures went into writing this book. I loved creating  the outdoor scenes in the Greenbrier area … taking readers around the town of Pittman Center, to Emerts Covered Bridge, to the Pittman Center Museum at the elementary school – all real places. I also enjoyed creating the wonderful rock resort lodge at Millhouse Resort, and the its beautiful stone structures from quarried rock in the area—Wingate House, Beau and Nonnie’s home, with the Butterfly Tea Room behind it, Retreat House for rent for groups at the resort, and Ivy Cottage, where Lucas James and his little daughter Suzannah live.

I also enjoyed taking readers hiking in the mountains … up the trail to Ramsey Cascades in Greenbrier, to a small family cemetery and another waterfall and pool on a trail behind the resort, Rock Creek Falls, and up the mountain to Chessy Bohanan’s old ramshackle cabin. So many places in this book are real ones that readers can visit … including the book’s scenes in nearby Gatlinburg. There really is a wonderful Fourth of July Parade every year in Gatlinburg, as pictured in the book, and readers often head to see places depicted in my novels when visiting in the Smokies.

In addition to taking readers to the mountains, I also enjoyed including scenes in Savannah, Georgia, as part of this book’s setting. Mallory works for a Savannah based publishing company called Whittier Publishing as an editor … and the company’s owner David Whittier and Associate Editor Nancy Franklin play memorable roles in the book’s story as Mallory finds her way back to health and happiness. I have visited often in Savannah and I love the colorful houses and townhouses downtown, so many set around lush green parks, like Whitefield Square, across the street from Mallory’s townhouse.

A final plus was in getting to create Suzannah’s dolls, toys, and favorite books, her charming tree house, and her cats Babycakes and Mr. Tom. In one scene in the story, Lucas and Mallory sit in on the birthing of Babycake’s kittens … reminiscent of a time when the same thing happened to J.L. and me with a young calico cat we had when first married. … I admit, I’d still like to take home all four of Babycake’s and Mr. Tom’s offspring—Lily, Muffin, Buddy, and Jas

I hope readers have as much fun reading my books as I do writing them! … And if you’ve missed reading THE INTERLUDE, it would make a great holiday season read! And any of my books would make great gifts!

Note: To celebrate this series of twelve stand-alone novels, all set around the Great Smoky Mountains, I dedicated each blog for this past year to one of my titles. If you’ve missed reading any of the others just continue scrolling down to find them all. …

[Note: All photos my own, from royalty free sites, or used only as a part of my author repurposed storyboards shown only for educational and illustrative purposes, acc to the Fair Use Copyright law, Section 107 of the Copyright Act.]