1.      Tell us about your latest published book.

Watauga County (2008), published with my co-author Brian Lambeth in the Images of America series with Arcadia Publishing, is a collection of 200 historic photographs and postcards from the area around Boone and Blowing Rock, North Carolina.  My favorite photograph is a c. 1930s image of an elephant with a traveling circus walking along the road at the old Valle Crucis School.   Reflecting the rural nature of this region, these images of businesses, people, houses, churches, and schools from smaller communities such as Todd, Valle Crucis,Bethel and Sugar Grove, tell the history of this unique mountain enclave.  I’m happy that it’s helped to emphasize how important local history and culture is to an area, and how it needs to be preserved.

2.  How did you get started writing histories of towns?Donna Akers

Arcadia Publishing contacted Judy Geary, my editor with High Country Publishers (Ingalls Publishing), who published my first book, a children’s book on Abingdon, Virginia (my hometown).  Arcadia was searching for a local historian and writer to compile a book on Boone’s history, and fortunately, Judy suggested it to me.  I decided to do the first book with Arcadia on Abingdon to go along with my children’s book, but then I was “roped in” and completed Boone, Blowing Rock, Washington County, Washington County Revisited, Watauga County, and soon to be released Abingdon Then & Now.

3.  What is the most difficult aspect of research?

Collecting 200 historic photographs and postcards for a community is always a challenge, almost a treasure hunt, because I like to acquire unpublished photos and share them in the books. It requires newspaper articles, flyers, and finding the local history buffs or older folks who may collect photographs. I’ve even been known to go door to door with my laptop and portable scanner in order to find photos of an area. Sometimes, folks are hesitant about loaning out their photographs so my ability to make electronic copies on the spot has been key in gathering images.

4.  Who is your favorite person interviewed for a book?

For the High Country books, I most enjoyed talking with George Flowers, long-time Boone area photographer.  His wonderful photographs documented many of the changes in the town and he preserved his negatives through the years. His memory was excellent, and he generously gave of his knowledge and images to assist me with the book.

Donna Akers5.  What inspired your ghost book?

Legends, Stories and Ghostly Tales of Abingdon and Washington County, Virginia was inspired because local children begged me to compile such a book after they read and enjoyed the ghost stories in my Plumb Full of History A Story of Abingdon, Virginia. I wanted to collect old stories and interview folks to provide more of an oral history and stories to accompany my historic photograph books. I was pregnant with my second son through researching the book, so I have fond memories of tripping through deserted, haunted houses with an 8 months pregnant belly..that’s dedication to your art!

6.  Where do the photographs come from?

Collecting the photographs for each book has been a different adventure, with sources ranging from historical societies, local photographers and their families, museums, postcard collectors, historians, teachers, and just plain folk who have collections of historic photographs of their corner of the world.  I’ve even been able to scan older glass negatives and tintypes.

7.  What is the process for writing the histories?

I usually read general histories of the area to gain perspective and decide which geographic areas I plan to target.  The books don’t develop along an outline per se, other than I always include chapters of people, houses, businesses, churches, schools, and recreation.  I spread the word about the project through newspaper articles and word of mouth in the communities, contacting older families who have been here generations and know the area well. It always helps to be able to cold call someone and tell them that so-and-so suggested I contact them.

8.  Describe your writing space/time.

I’ve always had to compile these books at a computer desk in a corner of the living room, surrounded by two busy young boys. When completing the layout of the photographs, I will spread them out on the floor to gain visual perspective on the flow.  Other than trying to write three pages in a personal journal each morning, as a busy mother I’ve had to work in the writing time as I can. When the children napped and when they used to go to bed early were my main chunks of writing time. Now that they’re older (6 and 11 years old), I just try to work with deadlines and do the work while they’re at school.

9.  Why do you write?

I write because it makes me happy and fills a need to help and teach others. I write because I love to read and want to give others the gift of the written word transporting you to another place.

10.  As a child/young adult, what book do you remember as a favorite?  Why?

I loved the Anne McCaffrey fantasy novels about dragons, because they were an escape from everyday, normal life. I’ve always had a very imaginative side so these well-crafted books fulfilled that need to picture life in a different place and time.

11.  List all your titles and where to purchase on-line.

Watauga County by Donna AkersWatauga County (Arcadia Publishing)

Boone (Arcadia Publishing)

Blowing Rock (Arcadia Publishing)

Abingdon (Arcadia Publishing)

Washington County (Arcadia Publishing)

Washington County Revisited (Arcadia Publishing)

Abingdon Then & Now (out Nov. 2010, Arcadia Publishing)

Legends, Stories and Ghostly Tales of Abingdon and Washington County, Virginia (Laurel Publishing)

Plumb Full of History: A Story of Abingdon, Virginia (High Country Publishers)

The books are available from my web site, www.donnaakers.com or www.donnawarmuth.com, as well as through bookstores, area retail stores, on-line book retailers and Amazon.com.

12.  What brought you to Boone, NC?

We wanted to be closer to home (Abingdon, VA) and moved down here for my husband’s job. I had grown up in Abingdon coming over here to ski during the winter, so I knew I would love these mountains almost as much as the ones of my ancestors in Virginia.  We’ve lived here since 1993 and my boys are natives of Watauga County.