By ANGELA H. HILL
Suzanne Barron had a story in her head for years; a story of time-traveling souls, a 1720s demon, bootlegging, and rampant corruption in the town underneath Fairy Stone Lake.
She put off writing it. A full-time nurse for 35 years, she’s had little spare time for such pursuits.
That is, until July 2010. Barron’s husband fell ill and required a heart transplant. Long days and nights at University of Virginia Health System Transplant Clinic left her with the kind of free time no one wants to have.
“I was not an English or a journalism major,” Barron shared. “I was a nursing major. I hadn’t written a creative word in years, and when I started back it was meant to be a distraction. It was meant to be a way to find solace during a time of extreme stress and anxiety. My husband was critically ill, and the long waits in the hospital needed an occupation – an escape.
“Some suggested journaling, but I was so overwhelmed by everything going on around my husband, and the very real chance he would not survive, I could not bear to give credence to any of it in a lasting potential epitaph.
“I preferred a fantastical escape,” she continued.
In September of last year, the nurse practitioner at Carilion Clinic’s Obstetrics & Gynecology in Rocky Mount published “Wings of Time, Breaking Darkness,” the first of a three-part young adult fantasy series written under S.D. Barron.
Barron sent out query letters and pitched the book to agents before meeting Al and Randy Mahon, owners of SDC Publishing Inc. in Botetourt.
After a thorough edit by Chuck Sambino – an editor whose hardline approach Barron said she appreciates — she signed on as an “indie author.”
The setting for “Wings of Time” is Fairy Stone State Park in Patrick County — both the park and the mining town of Fayerdale that was flooded in the 1930s to create the lake.
“In my original thinking, it was going to be a story about sisters, but it ended up being more romantic,” Barron said. “My husband and I were on the Blue Ridge Parkway and we ended up in an old country store. There was an older man sitting by a small woodstove. The store didn’t have much in it and I thought, ‘I need to buy something from him.’”
She found a small book filled with old newspaper articles and writings about Fayerdale, describing how it was first a site for iron mining, then for tree harvesting.
When those revenue streams dried up, residents turned to producing a liquid asset: moonshine.
“And I thought, ‘I have my story!’” Barron continued.
The story begins as 18-year-old Hallie O’Meara travels from her home in the Eastern Store to her first summer job at Fairy Stone State Park. She meets the mysterious Liam White at her new job, and the two begin a romance.
The plot takes a supernatural turn after O’Meara drowns at a park party, only to come back to life in 1920s Fayerdale with White.
“It’s about real places, but it is fiction, so some of [the challenge of writing it] was trying to get the feel of the moment right and the setting right so that even though it’s fiction, it’s still believable,” Barron said.
The book delves into the history of the iron mines still visible from a trail at the state park, noting how their narrow tunnels were dug by the Hairston family’s slaves in the 1700s.
The mines fell into disrepair until Virginia Ore and Mining Company revived them in the early 1900s.
“Wings of Time” also weaves in history from notable sites and landmarks in Colonial Williamsburg and the Chesapeake area.
Lovviner Simms, a Franklin County native and one of Barron’s patients, said she loved the book.
“I like young-adult fiction for one thing, and it was neat that she referred to things around the area that I could relate to. I’m definitely looking forward to the next one,” Simms said. “I know when this one ended, I thought, ‘I need to know more about what happened.’”
“Wings of Time” is the first in the trilogy. Barron sent the second book, “Secrets of Time, Finding Light” to her editor two weeks ago. She hopes to publish it late this summer. “Secrets of Time” takes place in 1950s Ferrum.
She’s written the third book, and may write two spin-off novels.
The artwork for the “Wings of Time” cover is a manipulated photo of Barron’s barn square. “Secrets of Time” will feature a photo of the same barn square design, custom carved into one of Barron’s maple trees by Franklin County’s Woodchuck Woodcarvings’ Dwayne Hodges.
Barron is able to print copies of her book on-demand, taking them to area festivals and events for signings and sales. The book is available on Amazon and at sdbarronwrites.com. Book No Further in Roanoke carries “Wings of Time.” So far, Barron has sold about 250 copies.
Barron has been at Carilion Clinic for 17 years. She was previously the Nurse Practitioner for Ferrum College, opting to stay with Carilion when Ferrum switched its student healthcare to Tri-Area Clinic.