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Georgia author weaves ‘Golden Trilogy’

Historical fiction of entertwined families set in North Georgia in 19th century

POSTED: December 2, 2010 12:20 a.m.
/For The Times

Author Denise Weimer will sign her book "Sautee Shadows," the first part of the "Georgia Gold" trilogy, Dec. 11 in Cornelia and Dec. 18 in Cleveland.

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Denise Weimer's love of history, coupled with a year of research, resulted in "The Georgia Gold Trilogy," a series of historical fiction novels authored by Weimer, who lives in Mount Airy.

"Sautee Shadows," the first book in the series, will be released this month by Presswork Publications of Toccoa.

The book begins in 1830 and focuses on the story of four families living or doing business in Habersham County and in Savannah.

Clarkesville artist John Kollock provided the cover illustrations for the books and helped Weimer with much of her research, acting as the historical editor for the series.

"He had read ‘Redeeming Grace,'" Weimer said, referring to her first novella. "He told me that if I needed help doing research for a future historical book, especially if it was set in this area, that he would help me."

Weimer gladly accepted, and when the time came, Kollock let her delve into his family's letters and diaries, and "a huge stack of books to get me started," she said.

After many trips to the library, Weimer was ready to begin her series.

"‘The Georgia Gold Trilogy' is set between about 1830 and 1870 here in Habersham County. Of course, Habersham County was bigger during that period and encompassed a good bit of White County," she said.

"And (the books are) also (set) in Savannah. The reason that that connection exists is because the people that lived on the coast of Georgia and South Carolina were really afraid of yellow fever."

To escape the heat and disease of the coast's summer months, Weimer said families retreated to North Georgia.

"A lot of them built summer homes here in the Clarkesville area, and that was true of Mr. Kollock's relatives," Weimer said.

"That's why his connection ... was so helpful and important. His family had done that. They were planters on the coast and they had a summer home here."

Weimer used the settings of Clarkesville, the Sautee valley and Savannah to intertwine the lives of her main characters, members of the Franklin, Randall, Rousseau and Calhoun families.

"Some of them were native to this area, some of them native to the coast, and I just created a story about how their lives interacted through friendship and romance and competition," Weimer said.

Weimer said ‘Sautee Shadows" delves into the lives of the parents of the trilogy's main characters.

"In ‘Sautee Shadows,' you have a little glimpse into the childhood and the adolescence of the main characters that remain throughout the trilogy, and it kind of shows why they became who they are," she said.

If she had to pick a central character, Weimer said Mahala Franklin might stand out most to readers. Mahala is a half-Cherokee woman whose parents fell in love just before the removal of the Cherokee people.

"At that point in time, a lot of the Cherokees were no longer living in Habersham County, but there were some in the Dahlonega area," Weimer said.

"They were coming back to their land for a visit, and (Mahala's father meets her mother) there, and marries her, and that creates some drama in his family," she said.
Mahala's life is jarred by tragedy when her father is murdered, and his gold goes missing.

"Most of Mahala's life, she's trying to figure out what happened. She's wondering if these people that she's walking around with, if some of them could have been involved in her father's murder," Weimer said.

As a young girl, Mahala ends up moving into Clarkesville with her grandmother.

"She has that tension between the farm family who raised her, who were friends of her parents, and her white grandmother, who wants to raise her differently," Weimer said.

Mahala's life is also complicated by two men: a Cherokee man who is in love with her, and Jack Randall, a New York-born entrepreneur who becomes her rival in the inn-keeping business.

Real historical characters also are featured in the novels.

"You'll find people that I'll mention that lived in Clarkesville and in Savannah," Weimer said.

"Some were well known, and some were obscure," she said, adding that Jarvis Van Buren, cousin to the eighth U.S. president, Martin Van Buren, is one such character.

"Sometimes, to me, the most surprising things that are in my books are things that really happened, or people that really existed," Weimer said. "If I didn't tell them, they would probably think that was the part that I was making up."

Weimer credits her parents for her interest in history.
"When I was young, they would take me to historical sites, and when I was a teenager and I was starting to write, I just kind of naturally set my books back in time," she said.

The culture, manners and etiquette of the 1800s appealed to Weimer.

"I try to reflect in my books. ... There was a code of conduct that was in effect then more than it is today," she said.

"People were expected to have integrity and to relate to each other with more honor," said Weimer, who began writing when she was 11.

"I started writing short stories and books at that stage in my life," Weimer said.

"I knew from that point that I wanted to make a career, and never really changed my mind."

Her drive to become a writer took Weimer to journalism school, first at Toccoa Falls College then Asbury College in Lexington, Ky. She minored in history.

Weimer, who grew up in Jackson County, returned to Georgia with her husband to live in Flowery Branch before moving to Mount Airy.

After writing for several Georgia-based magazines, she began pursuing book publishing, and wrote "Redeeming Grace" when her second daughter was 2 years old.

Now the editor of Presswork Publications, Weimer also has another book that will publish in December, titled "Drummer Danny."



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