Pepper Basham writes romances peppered with grace and humor with a southern Appalachian flair. Her books have garnered recognition in the Grace Awards, Inpsys, and the ACFW Carol Awards.

Her latest title mixes true crime, history, and romance as part of the multiple-author True Colors series. In The Red Ribbon (Barbour Books), Ava Burcham tends to court trouble. But when her curiosity leads her into a feud between an Appalachian clan and the local authorities, her amateur sleuthing propels her into a world of criminal cover-ups, political rivalries, and a battle of wills. The end result? The Hillsville Courthouse Massacre of 1912.

In this interview, Pepper explains the historical facts behind the story, the spiritual theme of the novel, and what she hopes readers get out of The Red Ribbon.

Pepper, what can you tell us about your protagonist, Ava Burcham?

Ava is a spunky, headstrong young woman who ends up getting herself into trouble because she wants to help people. Her family history is tragic and she became an orphan at a young age after watching her parents and younger brother die.

A bootlegging incident gone wrong is what led to her daddy’s death. Ava has a big heart for the truth and for righting wrongs but a lot of insecurities, due to her past, but her passion, kindness, and smarts are what make her endearing.

What did you find to be the most challenging part in your research–the time period, or the massacre itself?

The massacre! I had the unique opportunity to write a book that took place in my hometown about an event that still reverberates through parts of the community, even today. Navigating the lingering wounds of this crime and still being true to the story was probably the most difficult part of writing this book.

I wanted to do justice to my community, my Appalachian heritage, and to the people whose ancestors experienced this very real tragedy.

This is a novel with a true crime at the root of it. How do you balance historical fact against making a better story; is there additional pressure because there’s a “true crime” involved?

YES! There’s a timeline to follow!! LOL.

Plus, there’s the element of the “unknown” about certain aspects of this true crime that you want to make sure are organic to the story without stamping too much of my opinion on history. I did reduce the historical timeline to make it a better story because the real events happen over a year from each other. This tightened the story.

For me, the biggest pressure came from trying to make sure I respected both the history, the culture, and the reader to combine everything in way that created a good, cohesive, interesting, and (as much as possible) true story.

What spiritual theme did you explore in The Red Ribbon?

I loved getting to delve into the idea of identity. How we define ourselves? What we choose to use to create our identity and how that definition shapes our perspective, our choices, and our peace of mind.

Ava struggles with finding her identity in Christ instead of in her broken family history, so this wrong definition creates a fear within her that keeps her from embracing what God has given her in the present.

What would you like your reads to take away after having read The Red Ribbon?

Well, I hope they enjoy the story and learn more about the Appalachian culture, but even deeper than that I hope they recognize that knowing who and Whose we are makes a world of difference on living free and joyfully in a broken world.

When we recognize we are loved beyond imagining, held completely secure, and believe in the assurance of God’s control, it gives us a freedom of heart, spirit, and mind to really step into who we truly are. When we know we are loved unconditionally and when we embrace who God says we are in His sight, we truly live and love authentically. I’m not there yet, but I certainly hope God is continuing to help me understand that truth more and more each day.

Visit Pepper Basham’s Author Page:

The Red Ribbon
True Colors Series
Pepper Basham
Barbour Books
Buy the book from our store!

Check out more great articles

About The Author

Pepper Basham is an award-winning author who writes romance peppered with grace and humor. She currently resides in the lovely mountains of Asheville, N.C., where she is the mom of five kids, speech-pathologist to about 50 more, lover of chocolate, jazz, and Jesus. Her debut historical novel, 2015's The Thorn Bearer, garnered awards such as Reader’s Favorites Award, finalist in the Grace Awards, shortlisted for the Inspy Awards, and a finalist in the ACFW Carol Awards.