Shenandoah University Nursing Professor Pam Webber, Ph.D., says that just like her first novel, “The Wiregrass,” its followup, “Moon Water,” contains “a nugget of truth wrapped in a blanket of fiction.”
It’s a successful formula for Webber. “Moon Water” is the “Read of the Month” for September 2019 for the Southern Literary Review.
Love, faith and disaster
Set in 1969, “Moon Water” continues the story of Nettie from “The Wiregrass,” who is now back at home in Amherst County, Virginia. Nettie negotiates growing up, love, and faith, and a mysterious, summerlong task set by her best friend’s grandmother, Nibi, a Monacan medicine woman.
The story climaxes as the devastating remnants of Hurricane Camille ravage the characters’ lives. Camille was one of the few Category 5 hurricanes to hit the United States. Extraordinary downpours from the dying storm deluged Nelson County, which borders Amherst. In the course of just one night – Aug. 19 into Aug. 20, 1969 – 27 inches to 47 inches of rain fell.
Webber’s neighbor lost more than 20 members of her family in the storm, which led to extreme flooding and mudslides. It rained so hard that people had to cup their hands around their mouths and noses to breathe.
Gaining insight into the Monacan experience
Webber, like Nettie, grew up as the daughter of a Virginia State Trooper in Amherst County. She attended school with Monacans, but was unaware of the tribe’s rich history and traditions or the discrimination its people endured.
To gain insight into the Monacan experience, Webber often consulted with Victoria Last Walker Ferguson, Monacan Life Interpreter at Natural Bridge, Virginia, as she researched and wrote “Moon Water.” The pair met about four years ago through Webber’s cousin. As soon as they began conversing, Ferguson started to serve as a basis for Nibi, Webber said. “I saw my character forming as she talked.”
She said she decided to include the Monacan viewpoint because the tribe is so integral to that region of Virginia. “I don’t think you can talk about central Virginia and not talk about them.”
“Moon Water” is, in part, about pulling back the veil on the Monacans, Webber said. But, she added, it also talks about the merging of Native American and Christian spirituality, which is explained by a character who is both a physician and a Monacan chief.
Making time to write
Webber started writing “Moon Water” immediately after completing “The Wiregrass,” using the notes she constantly takes. Even before she started writing novels, Webber always wrote down ideas on the notepads she always keeps within easy reach.
A Shenandoah professor of more than 40 years, as well as an active nurse practitioner and mother of three, Webber only started writing novels once her children were grown. But, she said she always wrote down story ideas in the midst of her very busy life. She followed up on those ideas when more time became available.
Webber writes during evenings, weekends and university breaks. She said she’s currently working on the third book in the trilogy about Nettie and her family.
Promoting ‘Moon Water’ and Writing Book Three
It seems likely book three will have an audience, if the reaction to “Moon Water” is any indication. The book is on distributor Ingram’s Book Buzz list. The American Library Association featured it at its annual meeting in June as well.
In addition, Webber is making some live and virtual appearances to promote the book. She’s appeared in her home state of Virginia, of course. Webber is set to speak at an upcoming Sarasota, Florida, event for a multitude of book clubs. And, she said she’s also taking “a walk around the world” by appearing virtually at events in other countries, including the United Kingdom.
Moon Water, which was released in August to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hurricane Camille, is available at Amazon.com and through online/brick-and-mortar retailers, including Winchester Book Gallery in Winchester, Virginia, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million.