Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Michelle Shocklee & Appalachian Song

Posted October 2, 2023 by meezcarrie in Author Interview, Christian, giveaway, historical, Michelle Shocklee / 35 Comments

Michelle Shocklee guest post

Y’all know that the Smoky Mountains are my happy place, so I’m delighted to welcome Michelle Shocklee back to the blog to talk about the inspiration behind her new Smoky Mountains historical novel, Appalachian Song!

Appalachian Song by Michelle ShockleeAPPALACHIAN SONG by Michelle Shocklee
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: October 3, 2023
PAGES: 339

Forever within the memories of my heart.

Always remember, you are perfectly loved.

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.


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The Walker Sisters of the Great Smoky Mountains

by Michelle Shocklee, author of Appalachian Song

A Rocky Mountain Girl Meets the Smokies

I’m a Rocky Mountain girl, born and raised in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I like to say the Rockies are in my blood. There is nothing more beautiful to me than a rugged mountain range, covered in the autumn gold of turning aspen trees. So I was a bit surprised at how quickly I fell in love with the Great Smoky Mountains. They are as different from the Rockies as mountains can be, yet they hold a unique beauty that is unsurpassed.

My husband and I first visited the Smokies in 2018. Because I enjoy hiking in my beloved Rockies, I couldn’t wait to see if the Smokies would satisfy my soul the way the mountains of my childhood did.

I was not disappointed.

We stopped at the Visitors Center, where we learned about the Walker Sisters Cabin, a mile-and-a-half hike through woods and hills. We set off, relishing fall foliage that was different from the Rockies, but gorgeous, nonetheless. After an hour or so, we rounded a bend and beheld the ancient-looking, weathered cabin we sought.

The old homestead captivated me almost immediately. As I stood there gazing at it, imagining the people who lived there long ago, I knew I would set a book there someday. I’m pleased to say my new release, Appalachian Song, is that book.

The Walker Family

John Walker began courting Margaret Jane King in 1860. As they planned their wedding, the unrest between the South and the North erupted. Although Tennessee seceded from the Union in June 1861, John joined the Union Army, as did many East Tennesseans. Despite being wounded and captured during the war, he made it home to Margaret and they married in 1866.

By 1877, John and Margaret had six children. John had acquired a small one-room cabin and land in Little Greenbrier Cove from Margaret’s family shortly after they married. The cozy home was made of tulip-poplar logs, insulated with mud and rock. Being an industrious man, John soon constructed a barn, corncrib, smokehouse, pig pen, apple barn, and blacksmith shop. A springhouse on a nearby creek kept milk, butter, and root vegetables cool throughout the year. As the family grew, he added a kitchen, complete with a large stone fireplace, a sleeping loft, and a porch. He planted orchards with more than 20 varieties of apples, as well as peaches, cherries, and plums. Feeding the large family took many chickens, sheep, goats, and hogs, as well as produce from the enormous garden behind the house. One of the sisters once said, “Our farm produces everything we need except sugar, soda, coffee, and salt.”

John and Margaret eventually had eleven children—seven daughters and four sons. The sons bought farms of their own and moved away, but only one of the daughters married. The other six sisters lived in the cabin in Little Greenbrier their entire lives.

Photo credit: National Park Service

How the Walker Sisters Became Famous

After John and Margaret passed away, six of the sisters continued to live on the homestead. We probably would have never heard of the Walker sisters if the idea for a national park in the Great Smokies hadn’t taken root.

In 1923, Knoxville resident Ann Davis and her husband Willis returned from a trip visiting several Western national parks. Ann was convinced their beautiful part of the United States needed one, and she took her proposal to leaders in the area, especially around Knoxville. The idea eventually gained congressional approval, but to create the national park, nearly a half million acres of land had to be acquired. Buying all that land proved difficult. Some 6,000 small farms, large tracts, and other miscellaneous parcels had to be surveyed, appraised, and sometimes condemned in court. Some mountain homesteaders, like the Walker sisters, had no interest in selling. The sisters held out as long as they could, but when the government threatened to seize the property, they agreed to sell their 122-acre farm, with one stipulation: they must be allowed to remain in their home until their deaths.

Because the sisters now found themselves living within the borders of a national park, they were no longer able to raise livestock, grow crops, or hunt. As visitors flocked to the new park, the Walker homestead became known as Five Sisters Cove. Thousands of people hiked to the cabin, where they were greeted by the aging sisters. The women sold handmade items such as children’s toys, crocheted doilies, fried apple pies, and poems. In April 1946 they were featured in the Saturday Evening Post, introducing their mountain lifestyle to the rest of the country.

By 1951, only two sisters remained living. Greeting tourists became too much for the elderly women, and they asked the park superintendent to remove the “Visitors Welcome” sign. The last sister passed away in 1966 and the home became an historic landmark in the park.

Photo Credit: Jim Shelton, 1909

Appalachian Song

While Appalachian Song is not based on the lives of the Walker Sisters, their story inspired the characters of Bertie Jenkins and her four sisters. As I wrote about a pregnant teenager arriving on the Jenkins’s doorstep, injured and alone, I remembered reading how the Walker sisters cared for a baby boy during the 1930s. Descriptions of the fictional Jenkins cabin match those of the real Walker cabin, and the lives the two families led have many similarities, including Margaret Walker’s training as a midwife. It felt right for Bertie to be a midwife too.

I hope readers of Appalachian Song enjoy “visiting” Appalachia with Bertie, Songbird, and the Jenkins sisters. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Walker Sisters Cabin, not far from Gatlinburg, you will not be disappointed.

I sure wasn’t.

Michelle Shocklee

Michelle Shocklee is the author of several historical novels, including Count the Nights by Stars, a Christianity Today fiction book award winner, and Under the Tulip Tree, a Christy and Selah Awards 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, she makes her home in Tennessee, not far from the historical sites she writes about. Connect with Michelle at her website.

Other Featured Books by Michelle Shocklee


Appalachian Song giveaway

Tyndale House is offering a print copy of Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee to one of my readers! (US only. Void where prohibited by law or logistics.) This giveaway is subject to Reading Is My SuperPower’s giveaway policies which can be found here. Enter via the Rafflecopter form below.

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What about you? What makes you want to read Appalachian Song by Michelle Shocklee?

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35 responses to “Guest Post (and a Giveaway!): Michelle Shocklee & Appalachian Song

  1. Carrie,
    I was privileged to receive an early copy of this book. Michelle did a wonderful job of endearing the reader to several different generations of people in her split-time book in the Appalachians!

  2. Deborah D

    I love history and the fact that this book was inspired by a real family makes me want to read this book.

  3. Judi Imperato

    I have really enjoyed reading stories from this author and I would love to read her newest book as well.

  4. Winnie Thomas

    This sounds so intriguing! I love historical fiction, and this one is going on my wish list!

  5. Pam K.

    I want to read this book because I’ve read quite a few books set in the Appalachian Mountains and have an appreciation for the people and their culture. I’d love to visit someday. I also really enjoyed Michelle’s book, Under the Tulip Tree.

  6. Roxanne C.

    I enjoy books set in the Appalachians, and a group of sisters living together interests me. This sounds like a wonderful historical.

  7. Suzanne Sellner

    I loved reading about Songbird and the historical background. that inspired her. Stories set in the Appalachians intrigue me.

  8. Ron Ridley

    Hi Michelle. It took Debbie and I several years to finally read all your books, but you’ve definitely got 2 fans in this house.

  9. Susan Fletcher

    I want to read this book because of the background story! How interesting! I would love to know more about the Walker family and even see the house and schoolhouse. I’ve been to that area many times, but have never heard of this family. This is a new author to me, so I’ll have to discover the other books she has written! I love historical fiction!!!

  10. Anne

    This historical sounds captivating, memorable and a real treasure to enjoy. I enjoy true stories that show family and real trials and tribulations.

  11. Stephanie H.

    Many of my ancestors lived in the Appalachia mountains and I love learning more about where my family came from.

  12. Connie Porter Saunders

    Thanks for sharing Michelle’s interview. I love that the Walkers influenced this novel and I hope to read this book soon.

  13. Suan Marina Brown Lane

    We have been to some of the Appalachian Mountain areas in North and South Carolina and Tennessee. I Love Hisorical fiction and non-fiction. The true story is interesting and your novel looks really good also!

  14. Donna B

    This sounds like a great story! I have been to the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg TN. My sister lived in Knoxville for several years. This time of year the scenery is beautiful!!

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