Wednesday, July 23, 2014 · 7:45 p.m.
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"Moon Over Taylor's Ridge" book cover, designed by Tara Sizemore of Little Creek Books. The tree on the cover is in the pasture of Janie Dempsey Watts' family farm, which has been in her family since about 1918. (Image: Contributed)

Janie Dempsey Watts’ first novel, “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge,” is a Southern story rooted in the cultural history—and mystery—of the Northwest Georgia hills.

The story unfolds on the actual Taylor’s Ridge in Catoosa County, Ga. The ridge—named for Richard Taylor, a Cherokee leader and the great-grandson of Nancy Ward—was part of the original Cherokee Nation and stands as a landmark to the area’s Cherokee heritage, according to Watts.

In the story, Avie Williams Cole and her 13-year-old son return home to Georgia to settle her father’s estate. Her son’s fascination with the legend of a Cherokee silver mine leads Avie up to Taylor’s Ridge and into unexpected territory—on many levels.

Ultimately, “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge” is a love story about the land—one that hits close to home, according to Watts. She grew up on Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga and spent most weekends of her childhood riding horses at her grandmother’s farm in Woodstation, Ga.

“Oftentimes, it is a sense of place that inspires me, either geographical or emotional,” Watts said. “I like to link the feeling created by a place with the place inside a character’s heart. My favorite stories are those where the sense of place, inside and out, interplays as the story unfolds.”

Watts left the Chattanooga area to attend college, graduating from the University of California, Berkeley with a bachelor's in journalism and from the University of Southern California with a master's in journalism. She has worked for newspapers, magazines and television, and her work has been published in seven nonfiction books, as well as literary magazines and anthologies. 

 “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge,” her first novel, was published in August 2012 by Little Creek Books in Johnson City, Tenn.

Watts' upcoming book signings

Tuesday, Nov. 13
11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
Book Nook
229 N. Hamilton St.
Dalton, GA

Thursday, Nov. 15
6:30 p.m.
Signal Mountain Library
1110 James Blvd.
Signal Mountain, TN

Tuesday, Dec. 4
6:30 p.m.
Dalton-Whitfield County Library
310 Cappes Street
Dalton, GA

Like her leading character, Watts was called home to Georgia to assist her elderly father. While home, she was drawn to stories about her ancestors and her connections to the Cherokee people who once inhabited the land she loved.

Watts learned that one of her ancestors had been told about a mysterious Cherokee silver mine near Taylor’s Ridge before the Cherokee removal of 1838 that has never been found. While doing some research into the matter, she realized that her aunt, Mary Watts Mitchell, had written about the legend of the silver mine in Catoosa County as well.

“This novel is not my story, but my story inspired it,” Watts said. “After all, the best stories are based on truth.”

In 2007, Watts and her husband, Steve, and son, Jack, moved back to Georgia. Today, she lives near the family farm south of Ringgold and continues to enjoy riding horses.

Watts will be signing copies of “Moon Over Taylor’s Ridge” at several locations in the Chattanooga and Dalton, Ga., areas in coming weeks.

For more information, visit www.janiewatts.com.

Jenni Frankenberg Veal is a freelance writer and naturalist living on Walden’s Ridge, whose writing interests include conservation, outdoor travel and sustainable living. Visit her blog at www.YourOutdoorFamily.com.

Janie Dempsey Watts at her farm on Taylor's Ridge in North Georgia. (Photo: Lisa Jones)
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