Doris Musick ranks among the most popular writers around the Tri-Cities — and not just for the books she pens but also for her intriguing, complicated personality.
She likes to write. She likes to paint. She likes to socialize.
She's a generous mixture of both sugar and salt — capable of stern correspondence as well as gentle greetings. She hands out hugs. Yet she takes a backseat to no one; she lets herself be heard in lady-like fashion.
And other times? Well, she just laughs and goes with the flow.
"I’ve always thought it was so neat to be old enough to say whatever is on your mind and get away with it," Musick said. "Only old age gives us that privilege. While I’m not there yet, I am into my Medicare-age. Some days I feel 45, but not many. Some days I feel 75, and I’m not that either."
Perhaps we can chalk up such complexities to this writer's early childhood.
Born inMeadowview,Va., Musick lived on a farm until she was 9 years old. Then, she said, "My father gave up farming and we moved just outside the city limits of Abingdon, where I grew up."
For years, she lived in the Richmond, Va., area until retiring at age 55 and then sought a return to her roots.
Today, the writer and her constant companion — her husband, Larry — live on a farm on the outskirts of Cleveland,Va., inRussell County, not far from where Larry Musick grew up.
Doris Musick styles herself as "an amateur writer who has had the good fortune of receiving some great reviews of her book and a faithful following of readers. I see myself as being grateful for all of this, and undeserving of most."
Musick spends winters in Florida.
She spends her summers behind tables across Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee — and sometimes beyond — conducting book signings at Marion, Abingdon, Breaks, Bristol, Erwin, Grundy and the Grayson Highlands.
"I have such a wonderful group of faithful readers, and they are always so good about coming to my book signings," Musick said. "When they ask, 'Do you have a new book this year?' I want to always smile and say, 'But, of course.'"
These days, Musick is promoting her new "Hanover House: A Haunting Tale" (MtnValy Publishing, $7.95), that details the trials and tribulations of Taylor Webster, a divorced parent at a crossroads in life. In addition to caring for her daughter Amber, Webster finds herself also looking after her mother. Then comes the plot twist: Webster picks up and moves to a house in rural Virginia that might be haunted!
This particular short novel originated from Musick’s fans, telling her what to write about in her next book.
"Among these suggestions," she said, "was a story of a brutal murder which occurred in this area around 50 years ago ... There was an actual murder of a wife, in Russell County, and she was hidden by burying her body in the garden. From stories told to me, he actually did plant cucumbers over her grave. Many residents recall all of this and wanted a book about it. Some even had the old newspaper clippings from the time."
But, Musick did not want to write about that tragedy.
Well, not really.
"The real story only served to get the creative juices flowing as I thought of an exciting twist. And the story took off," Musick said. "One does not have to personally believe in ghosts or spirits to have an eerie good time while we are also just a wee bit frightened."
Such a story stems in the setting that Musick loves to write about: the Appalachian Mountains.
"It will not define the exact location, but mention of the nearby Creeper Trail and the Breaks Interstate Park, and the reader will unequivocally know they are in the area," Musick said.
"Another similarity is that I do not use profanity in my books so they are always suitable for family reading. I love finding families who like to share the books, not only with grandmother, but the grandkids too."
Musick's first book, "The Starched Apron," appeared in 2005.
When it came to writing a ghost story, Musick said, "I wanted to have a wider selection of books for my readers to choose from. I have three historical novels, one mystery ... I thought it would be fun to have something the public might not expect from me."
"Hanover House" is just plain fun, Musick says.
"It is like being a kid again and sitting around a camp fire telling stories to raise the hair on the back of your neck," Musick added. "It’s a bit scary, and entertaining at the same time."
And, yet, she said, "There is nothing 'evil' in this story. There are humans who have made mistakes, and people who want to make things right. If you just read and give your mind permission to speculate, the goose bumps will follow."
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Book Signings: Doris Musick
>> July 20-22: Hungry Mother State Park, Marion, Va.
>> July 28: St. Paul Farmer’s Market Pavilion for "Cooks and Books," St. Paul, Va., 4 p.m.
>> July 29: Virginia Highlands Festival at Fields-Penn House Museum, Abingdon, Va., 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
>> Aug. 2: Virginia Highlands Festival at Appalachian Authors Guild Booth, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
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