A novel about time travel in Southeast Illinois would have to include "The Old Slave House" or Crenshaw House as the state of Illinois calls it.
It is located near Equality and has a sordid history involving kidnapping, slavery and forced salt mine labor.
Deborah Heal of Waterloo has just released the third novel of a trilogy that incorporates these two elements. It is artfully written young adult fiction that teaches history with a light hearted style and plenty of back story romance. Titled "Every Hill And Mountain," the book will capture the imaginations of young readers and entertain serious history buffs.
While the disclaimer opens with the statement that "This a work of fiction,” Heal did extensive on-site research to set the scene of her novel.
She borrows some elements, like a local salt festival, from the past and includes current realities like a luncheon at the Red Onion Restaurant in the narrative.
The book is totally engaging; reading the first chapter of the current novel will likely lead to reading the entire trilogy.
Interviewed by phone in Waterloo, Heal said, "The trilogy fits into several genres. It's definitely in the historical fiction category. And it has a sweet budding romance. But it also fits in the supernatural fantasy genre that is so popular today. However, just so you know, you won't find any sparkling guys in the stories. Do we really need anymore vampire books?”
Computerized time travel helps the characters get a first-hand look at the past.
"The fantasy is that Abby's weird computer program works somehow in conjunction with old houses to virtually take her and the others back in time to see what the ‘olden days’ were like. This is something I've wanted to do since I was a child watching Mr. Peabody and Sherman and their WABAC Machine. And the program sometimes seems to have a mind of its own about what it shows Abby and the other characters.
Heal is finding there are others who share her interests.
"Apparently, I'm not the only one wishing for a WABAC Machine. The books seem to appeal to a wide age range.
Although I aimed for a teen audience, actually most of my readers are adults,” Heal said.
Although Deborah (Woods) Heal did not grow up in Gallatin County, her roots are there. Her mother, Barbara (Starnes) Woods went to Hickory Hill School, just a stone's throw away from the "Old Slave House," and Heal grew up hearing stories about it.
“My dad Earl Woods and his family lived ‘out in the hills.’ It sounded capitalized when he talked about it. By that I mean they lived in Eagle Creek Township near Equality. As far as I know, there's no local bluegrass band called Eagle Creek, but there ought to be, and so I included one in the story. If there had been one back in the 1940s, I'm sure my dad would have been a member of it. And my Grandpa Woods, just like Mr. Frailey in the story, really did make moonshine out behind the house in the old days,” she said.
Page 2 of 2 - “In their later years, Grandpa and Grandma moved into town where he built a little house covered in gray asphalt shingles, much like the one mentioned in the book. Every Hill and Mountain is fiction, but I hope it rings true to the region and the people and that my fondness for ‘down home’ comes through.”
Heal has arranged book signings 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 18 at the Red Onion restaurant in Equality and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. May 19 at Eldorado Memorial Library.