By Sherrie Norris
Former High Country resident and author, June E. Titus, will be holding a book signing at the Jones House in Boone on Friday, August 27, from 5-7p.m.
Titus is excited to be bringing her book, “Banjo Man” to Boone for the first time, and told High Country Press that it is the perfect venue from which to launch her book locally.
“The big reason a book signing at the Jones House is important is that the book starts at Jones House,” she said.
Titus will be available to sell and sign her book during the Friday evening concert at the historic venue with two of the area’s favorite groups —the Junaluska Gospel Choir and Soul Benefactor — slated to perform.
No stranger to the area, June Titus, remembered by many as June Bare, is a retired nurse, writer, poet, banjo enthusiast and artist. She lived in the Beaver Dam community of Western Watauga County from 1991 until 2012, prior to relocating with family to Thomasville, Ga., where she met her current husband, Ed.
While in the High Country, Titus was a regular contributor to the Watauga Democrat and All About Women magazine. She has published two previous works of fiction, “All Things” and “Soar Above the Yesterdays,” (both currently out of print), and two short books of her poetry. A youthful grandmother in her 80s, Titus remains active in her local church, is pursuing a degree in creative writing and posts a monthly blog by subscription and on Facebook. Titus plays a little bit of claw-hammer banjo, and loves to listen to old time music, ballads and hymns.
“In case you haven’t heard about my book, it centers around Susan, a retired schoolteacher and accomplished bluegrass and old-time banjo picker, who has been on a quest to find one of the many banjos her grandpa made back in the early 1900s,” Titus shared. “ When she stumbles on one, while on her honeymoon, she opens a whole new can of worms—scandals—identity issues and more. She learns that life, as she has known it, has been built on deception. Not only is her entire life challenged, but she comes face-to-face with her own need for the faith she has set aside over the last several decades. Are her questions about her identity ever resolved? ‘Banjo Man’ introduces a full cast of characters from all walks of life, who are intricately involved in Susan’s drama.”
High Country Press first introduced Banjo Man to the area late last year, just after it became available, describing it as a perfect gift that combines mountain music and family secrets with a local spin.
Even though it is a work of fiction, “Banjo Man” easily captures the heart of anyone familiar with the High Country area and its love for music.
As Titus’s third and most recent book, “Banjo Man” can easily be described as a gripping and potent fiction, although any of us who have been around these hills for any amount of time may easily identify with — and recognize — many parallels to our own lives and those of others in our family lineage.
The book proves that not everything is always as it seems — but also that there is a chance for redemption and hope for reconciliation in most situations we encounter along life’s road. One question remains, however, after the last page is turned and the book cover is closed: “How do we handle what we have learned, when it’s nothing like we thought it would be?”
“Banjo Man” is not just another book, but one that resonates with readers far and wide with a passion for old-time mountain music and a bit of family scandal thrown in for good measure.
Titus admitted that her family background played a significant role in her decision to bring to life “Banjo Man.”
Having grown up in Pennsylvania, she was familiar with her mother’s hometown of Crossnore, NC, a place her mother referred to as “down home.” Visits to the area during her childhood, Titus said, prompted a move to the area when she retired.
Titus’s local family connections, at least a couple of which are referred to in the book, include those of Johnson, Vance, Cuthbertson, Franklin and Gragg. Many of these families have been known through time as having a love for and a great talent related to music; her grandfather had it all and was also a crafter of banjos.
Although Titus stressed that there is no “real back story here,” and that “Banjo Man” is “entirely fictitious,” many pieces of stories from which she has gleaned through her lifetime fueled her imagination for the book.
Her family’s musical legacy coupled nicely with her late husband’s vast collection of old-time music, bluegrass and traditional ballads, Titus shared, and helped her develop an interest in the old-time mountain music.
When asked her thoughts on music and why she thought it has held such a special place in our mountains for so long, her reply was easily understood.
“There are many reasons for the music heritage in the High Country. The area was settled by Scots/Irish who brought their ballads with them. Living remotely, there was no better outlet for entertainment than the home-style music. And, during the cold winters when getting out to farm was not easy, why not sit around the fireplace working with wood to craft an instrument? The banjo, which Titus loves and “plays at for my own amusement,” she added, came into the area after the Civil War.
And, for the provoking book cover, the image of the banjo picker wearing a hat with her beloved mountains in the background, was the author’s idea, too. “This was to demonstrate ‘Banjo Man’s mountain heritage — and the hat was his signature when he played his banjo.”
Bringing it all together on a local level, Titus surmises: “Although part of the book transpires several points south of the mountains, it is, indeed, a High Country story. Willson’s Cove is fictional, but it could be around any curve or up any holler in the High Country,” she said. “The folks in the story find themselves in Boone, Banner Elk, Blowing Rock, Crossnore, Newland and surrounding areas.”
When asked what she hopes “Banjo Man” will bring to its readers, she responded, “I hope that readers will not only enjoy a fun story, but they will also see that no matter what transpires in their lives, no matter what challenges the past has dealt, we have a forgiving God and that we, too, can forgive.”
For one who loves to write, in general, Titus admitted that this story was special because it grew from her love of the High Country, its culture and its music. “This story was a way to express that love,” she said.
Titus has received personal enjoyment by creating a piece of fiction that is resonating with readers, she said. “The high point was when my sister said, ‘You nailed it!’”
“Banjo Man” is nothing short of a thrilling journal that accounts the life of one determined woman as she discovers the hidden truths of her clan. Throughout tales of suspicion, lies and questionable identity, readers will become lost, or possibly found, within this fascinating and surprising work of art.
You don’t want to miss the chance to claim your copy of “Banjo Man” and meet, or renew acquaintance with its author.
Titus will be at the Jones house rain or shine (inside if raining).
“If you already have my book and need it autographed, bring it with you and I will be happy to personalize it for you. If you do not have a copy, I will have a good supply to share. Tell your friends and bring them along. Maybe you belong to a book club. It would be a great book to review. I hope to see you there.”
if you can’t make it to the Jones House, you can find the book in most bookstores or online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, the Apple iTunes store or Google Play.