The History Mystery Of The Melungeons and The Story Keeper


Happy Monday, everyone! It’s a book birthday around Southern BelleView!  I’m happy to share that my twenty-third novel, The Story Keeper, is officially hitting shelves today… right now… even as we speak! StoryKeeperSC_3D

This novel has a history unlike any other I’ve written, and I can’t wait to tell you about it, but first I’m thrilled to share that The Story Keeper has garnered a Southern Independent Booksellers Association OKRA Pick, a Pulpwood Queens Book Clubs selection, and an RT Bookreviews Top Pick!


The Story Keeper is a tale of two women living over one hundred years apart, yet bound together by a mystery. It’s book number two of the Carolina Chronicles and shares ties to The Prayer Box through a fascinating bit of history involving the mountains of North Carolina and the Outer Banks. In 2015, a third novel (which I just finished writing and sent off to the beta readers — thank heaven!) will wrap up the series.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, let me share a bit of the mystery that inspired The Story Keeper


The mystery begins in the deep mountains of Appalachia, over one-hundred years before America officially becomes a nation. In 1654, the first English explorers to push into the mountains of Virginia, Kentucky, and The Carolinas, report the strange discovery of “blue-eyed, reddish-brown complexioned,” people.  The explorers are baffled by these “blue-eyed Indians,” who live in houses and use the Maltese cross as their sacred symbol. In 1673, Englishmen James Needham and Gabriel Arthur, traveling with several Native American guides, report meeting “Hairy people …. (who) have a bell which is six foot over which they ring morning and evening and at that time a great number of people congregate together and talks.”  The dialect used by these “hairy, white people which have long beards and whiskers and weares clothing” is neither English nor any Native American language the guides recognize.


Who were these reclusive people? How did they come to be in the eastern mountains long before the first explorers arrived? To this day, no one really knows. As early as 1810, they enter the written record in the mountains of Arkansas, in documentation from Baxter County, The four men who had come with Mooney were men of Mystery, referred to by oldtimers who knew of them as “Lungeons.” They were neither Negro or Indian and in later years Jacob Mooney was ostracized for living with these “foreigners.” By the time he moved to Arkansas for good, his former slaves and the “lungeon” men had died and most of their families had moved west with the Indians.


After reading about the mystery of the Melungeons late one night, I fell asleep and  literally dreamed a story. I saw the tale of a busy New York editor who finds an old manuscript. She’s captivated by the life of Sarra, a young Melungeon girl being sold off in a card game in turn-of-the-century Appalachia. The search for the manuscript’s author takes the editor on a journey to the heart of The Blue Ridge… and into the secrets of the past.


I’ve never “dreamed” a story before, and so writing The Story Keeper was a uniquely wonderful experience. It literally fascinated me.  If you’ve never heard of the Melungeons (or even if you have), take a minute to Google the word. I think you’ll be as amazed by the history as I was!


To celebrate the release of The Story Keeper, we’re having a contest this week. 

TO ENTER: Share The Story Keeper book cover or this blog post on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, your blog, or anyplace else online, then CLICK HERE FOR THE ENTRY FORM. Up to 5 entries possible per person. Thank you for helping to spread the word!



The Story Keeper an RT Bookreviews Magazine Top Pick!



Click for peek at The Tidewater Sisters

 Click for sneak peek at The Story Keeper






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Selected among BOOKLIST'S Top 10 of 2012 and Top 10 of 2013, Lisa Wingate weaves Southern settings with elements of women's fiction, history, and mystery to create stories that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and Library Journal refers to as "Lyrical and beautiful." She is a seven-time Carol Award nominee, and a two-time Carol Award winner. She once dreamed of making the Olympics and winning the National Finals Rodeo, but was thwarted by an inability to do a back flip on the balance beam and parents who wouldn't finance a rodeo career, so she took her first-grade teacher's advice and became a writer instead ;)

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  1. says

    Okay, so I’m trying to figure out how to express in one single comment how awesome this book is, Lisa Wingate! I devoured it in one sitting. I was propped on my elbows reading in bed and got so engrossed that I didn’t realize how much time had gone by and how late it was getting until my arms went to sleep! Of everything you have written this one should make you a household name. Yes, it’s that good. Blessings on it. May it go far and wide!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Oh, Shellie, I covet those blessings and return them. Thank you. You have sprinkled my heart with joy this morning. I take it as a high compliment that you stayed up late with the book!

  2. Nicole Seitz says

    Yes, blessings on this book, Lisa. I am usually cognizant of the author when I am reading a friend’s work, but this time, I became engrossed in the story and the gorgeous writing…forgetting it was you! So happy for you today!!!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Nicole, thank you. This story took me away as I wrote it. Maybe because I’d dreamed it first, it felt like something that happened, not like something I was writing. It was a surreal experience, and thank you for sharing your thoughts about the book. You know I adore everything you have written, so that means a lot.

  3. Janice Burzlaff says

    I am not devouring it in one night but The Story Keeper has certainly been keeping me up past my bedtime many nights recently. Totally engrossing – I get lost in it. Pleasantly lost. :) Thanks so much Lisa!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Hi Janice,

      That is exactly how I felt while I was writing the story. I felt like I was lost in a whole different world, tramping those hills with Jen and Sarra. I missed them when it was over.

      So glad you’re enjoying the book!


  4. Lisa says

    I am so excited that the book is in stores today. I have been waiting, not so patiently, for it’s release. Off to get my copy!!

  5. NanN says

    … It’s time again for us to have our trailer out on the roads for another Fall Adventure … and I’ve just downloaded your new book and The Prayer Box to my Kindle. You’ve really captured my interest with the Melungeons. I can’t wait to read them both!!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Oh yay! I hope you enjoy both stories. I only wish I could climb inside the books and go along on that fall adventure. Sounds like so much fun!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Denise, you are the best! Thank you for your support and encouragement and for taking these journeys with me. I am so glad you enjoyed this one :-)

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Hi Bonnie,

      Huckleberry and I accept those hugs and return them! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the new book!

      Big Hugs Back Atcha!


  6. Donna H. says

    I love the excitement building over this book! Happy Birthday to The Story Keeper, and congratulations, Lisa!!! 😀

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Hi Donna,

      Thank you so much! I am so excited for the release of this book. I hope everyone else enjoys the journey to the Blue Ridge as much as I did. This book was such a magical experience for me.

      Thank you for journeying along!


  7. Patti Patterson says

    Had never heard of the Melungeons before “The “Story Keeper.” Have enjoyed reading the Google results. Loved “The Story Keeper” and being part of the readers circle.

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Hi Patty,

      Thank you for being part of the sisterhood! Isn’t the history of these mountain people such a fascinating thing? It’s so interesting when I read historical documents about them, how their neighbors saw them and referred to them. How do superstitions like that get started, I wonder?

      Fodder for another story!


  8. says

    Like ANYONE with half a wit, I LOVED this book! I think I emailed you personally that we have mulungeons in our family. In fact, one family member from many years ago who was melungeon went to live with an aunt and uncle who passed her off as their daughter so she could “marry well …” and all records were changed. Now, all these MANY years later, my fellow ancestry hunters and I have uncovered the records so we can properly put her in the family tree. Funny the things that don’t bother us today that were the end of the world back then.

    Great job, Lisa!!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Oh, Eva, that is amazing! Your family is, then, one of many to hide Melungeon roots and change the family Bible. Many families that have a “Cherokee’ or “India” ancestor they cannot track down may have Meluneon history that was hidden at some point.

      Thank you for the kind words about the book! You made me laugh, but I treasure it also, coming from such a mighty-fine writer :-)


    • Lisa Wingate says

      Thank you Sharon! This book does have some amazing history behind it. I hope people will enjoy the history as well as the story. I could only include a tiny bit in the novel. There is so much more :-)

  9. Edie Mc says

    I’m really looking forward to reading this one, Lisa! It sounds fascinating! I’ve shared on Pinterest and Facebook!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Thank you, Edie! I so appreciate your sharing and helping to spread the word about this book. I hope you enjoy The Story Keeper!!!

  10. Miriam Lozano says

    Congratulations Lisa! I am so excited for you. I know this one is a winner. The story is captivating and the imagery just excellent. I have been raving about you and your books since I read the Prayer Box and then, having been a part of the Sisterhood of the Traveling book, I have become your staunchest supporter. I love the way you write and you may have spoiled me forever. Have fun on your tour and praying for great success.

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Miriam, thank you for being such a wonderful supporter. You have helped to make the pre-release months of this book such a joy and I’m thrilled that we’ll get to meet during the tour. I feel that it can’t be coincidence that the tour was taking me to St Louis and… there you are!

      So looking forward to the event there, to chatting about The Story Keeper and to raising money for such a worthy cause. Thank you for coordinating the festivities!


  11. Bonnie Roof says

    What an interesting post, Lisa – thank you!!

    I googled the Melungeons and am totally fascinated!! I had never heard of them even though I read that there are some here in my home state of Kentucky, I will definitely be doing more research about them. I find it amazing that you dreamed this story, Lisa – you felt like you had been transported to another world while writing the story and I had that feeling also – just reading about the Melungeon.

    I love your writing and after reading the background for “The Story Keeper”, feel that it will be even more special than your others. I’m so looking forward to receiving my copy of “The Story Keeper” and it’s reading!! I’ve shared this post and so hope I am able to attend one of the signings on your tour, but, if not – I’m holding you to that comment about doing a signing in Kentucky one day!!

    Congrats – adding my hugs for you and Huck to those of Bonnie J.!!

    • Lisa Wingate says

      Hi Bonnie! i’m glad you found the story of the Melungeons as fascinating as I did. Yes, your home state is part of their history.

      I hope to see you on the tour… or if not… in Kentucky sometime in the future!


  12. says

    The Story Keeper looks amazing. Historic fiction is my favourite genre [even though, incidentally, that is not what I write!] I’ve read two stories recently that weave two threads from different times together into a single beautiful story. I look forward to reading Ms. Wingate’s story, too.

  13. Deanna S says

    After reading your story I googled, very interesting. I had not heard of them either.
    I learn something everyday as I read my favorite blogs. thanks :)

  14. Jackie McNutt says

    Lisa, Thank you for your wonderful post. I have never heard of The Melungeons and the history is really interesting. I am looking forward to reading The Story Keeper!
    Thank you and Congratulations on your book !

  15. says

    Having grown up in Appalachia I’m familiar with the Melungeons and have even met a few people who claim to have Melungeon blood. But I don’t think I’ve EVER seen them mentioned in a book before–so looking forward to reading this!

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