Inspiration for A Murder In the Mountains Series

This Friday, we’re happy to have Heather Day Gilbert as our feature author. I stayed up recently reading Trial by Twelve. The letters from the serial killer had me pulling my covers up to my neck. Help me welcome a fellow suspense writer!

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I grew up reading every Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on. I also love novels with a past-present storyline and a psychological twist, so when I set out to write mysteries, I knew I wanted to incorporate those elements, along with a bold amateur sleuth much like Nancy Drew.
I also knew I wanted to set my mysteries in the West Virginia mountains. Growing up here, I heard stories of “haints” (ghosts), murders, and love gone wrong (among other happier stories!). I knew there was no better setting for mysterious goings-on.
I chose the Point Pleasant area primarily because I’ve always wanted to delve into the legend of the Mothman sightings there. I visited that area with my Mom, took pictures, and decided my amateur sleuth, Tess Spencer, wouldn’t live far away from that town.

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And yes, Mothman will make an appearance in the final book in the series. I’ll include a (somewhat terrifying) picture of the Mothman statue in Point Pleasant. It should be noted a small child nearby us burst into tears just seeing the red-eyed creature.

Mothman and Heather
I love writing about contemporary West Virginia, because it’s full of sad/happy contrasts: dying coal mines; beautiful, tree-covered mountains and hills; high levels of prescription medication abuse; and yet so many people I grew up with return here, because these mountains really do grab hold of your heart and don’t let go. I never thought I’d return but then the mountains called me back.
I’m happy to share a taste of the West Virginia way of life in my A Murder in the Mountains series. I’m always thrilled to read reviews of readers who feel like they know the Spencer family, because family dynamics are integral to these mysteries.

To enter the giveaway for a Kindle copy of Trial by Twelve, tell us in the comments if there are any local legends where you live(d)? Or, what are your favorite mystery authors past or present?

pillarsideHEATHER DAY GILBERT writes novels that capture life in all its messy, bittersweet, hope-filled glory. Born and raised in the West Virginia mountains, generational story-telling runs in her blood. Heather is a graduate of Bob Jones University and is married to her college sweetheart. Having recently returned to her roots, she and her husband are raising their three children in the same home in which Heather grew up.

Heather’s Viking historical novel, God’s Daughter, was an Amazon Norse Bestseller for an entire year. She is also the author of Miranda Warning and Trial by Twelve, Books One and Two in A Murder in the Mountains mystery series, and the Indie Publishing Handbook: Four Key Elements for the Self-Publisher.You can find Heather at her website,  her Facebook Author Page, Twitter: @heatherdgilbert, Pinterest , Goodreads, or  email: heatherdaygilbert {at}


15 thoughts on “Inspiration for A Murder In the Mountains Series

  1. Wow, that Mothman creature is scary-looking! I’m in Nova Scotia, farther along the Appalachians, and there’s plenty of folklore here too. Perhaps the most famous was collected by historian/author Dr. Helen Creighton in her book, Bluenose Ghosts. My personal favourite, not being a ghost-type person and not liking to be scared, is the legend of a UFO crash in the small town of Shag Harbour, NS, in the 60’s. [Please don’t enter me in the draw. I’ve already read and enjoyed Trial by Twelve, and the winner should be someone who hasn’t had that chance.]

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  2. Local Legend :: Mooresville, Indiana

    I was young when I lived in Mooresville, Indiana — pre-school through 3rd grade. My teenage step-brother told me a story about a group of kids who were killed by a train when their car stalled on the tracks. He said that if you drove to the tracks and put his car in neutral the kids (ghosts) would push our car up and over the tracks to safety. I had NO desire to test the validity of his story, but that tale has stuck will me all my life.


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  3. You know I’m a WV girl, Heather. My heart will always be there, as well as Virginia. The same is true for my parents, especially my father. His father worked in the mines and my father did as well, before heading off to college. I’m sure Charlotte has some local legends…but probably nothing compared to WV.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I live on the Oregon coast and we have many shipwreck legends along with Indian legends & I’m sure our share of ghost legends too.
    Here’s one interesting one I found for Face Rock Oregon (Bandon,OR on the Southern coast):
    “Face Rock is a large sea stack of resistant rock on the Oregon Coast at Bandon that resembles a face in profile. Legend from the Nah-So-Mah Tribe has it that the beautiful Indian princess Ewanua was visiting tribes on the coast with her father, Chief Siskiyou, and in celebration of their visit, a great potlatch took place.The local tribes were in great fear of Seatka, the evil spirit of the ocean, but Ewanua and those in her tribe, who lived in the mountains, were not afraid. After the feast, while others lay sleeping, Ewanua carried her dog, Komax, and her cat and kittens in a basket and wandered down to the ocean.
    She danced and played with delight, and soon placed her pets in their basket on the beach and swam into the ocean, far from shore. Unaware of any danger, she was suddenly grabbed by a fearsome creature that came out of the water. Komax, knowing his mistress was in danger, swam out to her with the basket in his mouth and bit Seatka. Howling with rage, the monster kicked off the dog and threw the cat and kittens far out to sea. He tried to get the princess to look at him, but she refused, knowing his power was in his eyes.Now, the beautiful Ewanua lies in the ocean, looking skyward, refusing to look at Seatka, who sits nearby. Her beloved Komax and her cat and kittens lie to the west, waiting in vain for their mistress to arise.”

    I wished I could put the picture of the rock here because it does look like a woman’s face looking skyward! It’s interesting learning some of our Indian legends 🙂
    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  5. In Knaresborough, UK near me we have Mother Shipton’s cave, where England’s most famous prophetess lived 500 years ago.
    Her prophetic visions became known and feared throughout England. People believe she predicted the Spanish Armada, the Great Fire of London and even the plague. Her Cave and the nearby petrifying well (which supposedly turned objects to stone) is Englands oldest visitor attraction – opening in 1630.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I grew up in Rushford NY! I don’t know of any legends originate around there, but I know you! Haha. I just wanted to say that I am reading Miranda Warning right now and I can’t put it down! 🙂 I love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: And the winner is… | Team Love On the Run

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