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Adoption,  Author Interview,  Giveaway,  Hope-filled Fiction

Michelle Shocklee: Smoky Mountains, Adoption, Midwives & More

I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for nearly 37 years. We have two grown sons and two beautiful soon-to-be daughters-in-law! After the boys left home, my husband and I moved to Tennessee where we work as Estate Caretakers. 

I’ve always been a writer. Even as a young girl, I wrote stories, letters, and kept a diary. I attempted my first novel when I was in my mid-20s, but I knew nothing of writing novels. It was awful. Loooong and awful. But it opened my mind up to the possibility of actually doing this writing gig. I began attending writers’ conferences, joined American Christian Fiction Writers, and wrote many more books before my first novel was published in 2017. 

I write historical fiction because I am obsessed with history. I believe there are lessons to be learned by studying history, with the hope of not making the same mistakes as the people who came before us. My novel Under the Tulip Tree was my first split-time story, using two different historical time periods, and I confess I absolutely loved the process and research that went into it. For now, I will continue to write split-time historical novels, including my latest, Appalachian Song.  

As a Bible-believing Christian, Jesus Christ is part of me, so I don’t want to write stories that leave him out. But I also don’t want to write a sermon under the guise of fiction. What I try to do is take my characters on a faith journey—the same type of journey that you and I are on. Some will be farther ahead, like Rubie in Appalachian Song, while others, like Songbird, are just starting out. 

The idea for Appalachian Song developed after I visited the 150+ year old cabin that once belonged to the Walker family of the Great Smoky Mountains. Five of the eleven Walker children—five sisters, to be specific—lived in the cabin their entire lives. While Appalachian Song is not based on the Walker Sisters lives, Bertie and her siblings are inspired by the Walkers. 

The Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee have become a favorite of mine. As a girl who grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico, I didn’t think I’d love the Smokies as much as I do. After visiting the Walker Sisters cabin, located a few miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I knew I wanted to set a novel there and explore life in the mountains, hills, and hollers of that part of Appalachia.

The old Walker cabin, a spring house, and a corncrib are all that remain of the homestead today, but I was able to bring it to life in my novel by studying photographs and reading first-hand stories of people who spent time there. 

Because I write historical fiction, research is the lifeblood of all my books. I spend several months immersed in research, from the setting to the era to what people ate and the clothes they wore. The study of photographs is also a huge part of my research, because I’m a visual learner and need to see things to fully understand the context and content of what I’ve just read. The goal is to describe the setting to readers in such a way that they feel they’re there or can see it in their mind’s eye rather than simply reading about a place. 

It takes me a full year from the time I submit an idea for a book to my publisher to the wonderful day I write “The End.” I’ll spend the first couple months reading research books and collecting research materials. Highlighters and notebooks are my friends during that period. When I feel ready, I’ll start writing the book.

I don’t set daily word count goals, as that has never worked for me. Because I work full-time, my writing usually takes place on the weekend. I do write a synopsis for my publisher, which keeps me on track. There are still a lot of surprises along the way, but the synopsis helps me stay away from rabbit trails and detours that will more than likely be edited out later. 

Adoption is at the heart of this book, with the theme of “I choose you” running through each of the characters’ lives. I’m blessed to have many people in my life who’ve been touched through adoption—adoptees, adoptive parents and families, a birth mother—and watching them navigate the highs and lows has been a life-changing experience.

The beautiful truth is that adoption is God’s idea. He planned to adopt us into his family all along. Ephesians 1:5 says, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.” That is what I hope to bring out through the pages of Appalachian Song as Songbird, Walker, Reese, and Bertie discover this truth. 

When my editor suggested I write a book about a midwife, I jumped at the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed developing the character of Bertie Jenkins, a midwife for her mountain community. Like most mountain midwives of that time, Bertie learned the practice from her mother, who learned it from her mother. It was great fun researching this storyline.

Songbird’s character was more challenging, because her story brings out the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity. But hers is also a story of how God the Father becomes our Abba, or Papa, which is something I hope will resonate with each reader.  

I think Bertie is exactly right when she tells Walker, “Family don’t always mean blood kin.” 

I just finished writing my next novel and it is now with my editors. In the coming months I’ll work on any changes they suggest, and they’ll work on the cover design, formatting, etc. It’s a split-time historical story, set on a Tennessee horse farm in the 1940s and 1970s. It deals with some heavy topics, as well as the effects from World War II and the Vietnam war on people here at home. This book doesn’t have an official title yet, but it will release in Fall 2024. 

For a chance to win a paperback of Appalachian Song by @shellshocklee visit her interview on my blog and leave a comment by 11/28. (US winner only) #amreading #historicalfiction


Click the book cover for purchase link

Bertie Jenkins has spent forty years serving as a midwife for her community in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Out of all the mothers she’s tended, none affects her more than the young teenager who shows up on her doorstep, injured, afraid, and expecting, one warm June day in 1943. As Bertie and her four sisters tenderly nurture Songbird back to health, the bond between the childless midwife and the motherless teen grows strong. But soon Songbird is forced to make a heartbreaking decision that will tear this little family apart.

Thirty years later, the day after his father’s funeral, Walker Wylie is stunned to learn he was adopted as an infant. The famous country singer enlists the help of adoption advocate Reese Chandler in the hopes of learning why he was abandoned by his birth parents. With the only clue he has in hand, Walker and Reese head deep into the Appalachian Mountains to track down Bertie Jenkins, the midwife who holds the secrets to Walker’s past.

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, winner of the 2023 Christianity Today Book Award in Fiction, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy Award and Selah Award finalist. Her work has been featured in numerous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, magazines, and blogs. Married to her college sweetheart and the mother of two grown sons, Michelle makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about.

Connect with Michelle through her Website.

As a Jesus girl for more than thirty years, Deena Adams understands how important hope is to daily life, which fuels her passion to inspire others through hope-filled fiction based on true to life stories. She is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency and is a multi-award-winning writer, an active ACFW member, and ACFW Virginia president. Connect with Deena through her website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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