In her new novel, "Blood Creek", author Kimberly Collins writes about the strikes that gripped the southern West Virginia coalfields in the early 20th Century from the perspective of the women who lived through them.
"Blood Creek" is the first in the Mingo Chronicles series. It starts with the strike at Paint Creek and Cabin Creek in 1912. Collins used real characters from history in her books, several of whom she is related to.
“The story starts with a character named Ellie, and Ellie was a real person," Collins told West Virginia Public Broadcasting's Eric Douglas in an interview. "The overarching theme of the book is the mine wars and the thread that's kind of woven through the entire book is the relationship between Ellie, her sister and her cousin,” she said. “So it's a book about relationships and just the fighting human spirit getting through some pretty pretty dark, violent times in southern West Virginia.”
Collins said the idea for the story came about when a cousin told her stories about her own great-grandmother she had never heard.
“I just thought it was important to tell the women's stories because coal is a man's world. And the women really played a huge part in it, but I don't think that that story is told enough,” she said.
“Blood Creek” is about the 1912 coal mine strike in Paint Creek. Collins said she began writing about the 1920 mine wars in Matewan, but stumbled across a story about the real-life Ellie and knew she had to write it into a book. The Matewan Massacre will be the focus of the second book in the "Mingo Chronicles" series.
Collins is from Matewan, although she now lives in Tennessee. She said the research she did for the book has opened her eyes to her own history.
“I realized that my heritage, my Appalachian heritage, is pretty amazing. I learned so much about the people of Appalachia and southern West Virginia, and that they were hardworking and intelligent, and smart and clever, and really fighting for their rights," Collins said. "All those things that came before me have made me who I am today."
This story is part of an episode of Inside Appalachia that explores tourism in southern West Virginia and the lasting impacts the Hatfield and McCoy feud has had on the region's identity.