Welcome Guest Lynn Chandler Willis

Gr8aunt is the winner of Lynn’s giveaway! Watch for an email from Lynn. Welcome Lynn Chandler Willis! I love stories about how authors incorporate bits of their real lives into their books. This one is intriguing and something I’ve never heard of.

Talking the Fire Out

My daddy was the one in the neighborhood people called on for a little bit of everything. Help building something, or what to do about this or that, or talking the fire out. The what? A fire talker. I was probably ten years old when I saw the gift for the first time.

A neighbor across the street was grilling out. She’d doused the coals with lighter fluid and when she went to drop a match, the entire grill went up in flames, catching her clothes, and herself on fire. Her screams coupled with the neighborhood kids’ screams who had witnessed the horrific accident echoed through the neighborhood.

While someone called for an ambulance, someone else called my daddy. They knew he was a fire talker. While we waited for the ambulance, daddy went to work. He quietly talked with the neighbor to calm her. He did his thing and when the ambulance got there, the scene was nowhere near the chaos it had been earlier. I don’t remember if the neighbor spent time in the hospital or not but I do know she didn’t scar. Her pain was minimal and even the doctors were taken aback by the “miracle.”

There were other times daddy was called upon to talk the fire out. After I had kids of my own, daddy wanted to make sure I had the gift in case a little one got burned. But, as the tradition goes, daddy couldn’t share it with me because you can’t share it with a member of your immediate family. And it has to be shared by a member of the opposite sex. I found all these stipulations a bit tiresome and lost interest until I received a phone call one afternoon from my panicked mother. Daddy had been working on an electrical panel (he was an electrician by trade) and it blew up on him. He was taken to the hospital with 3rd degree burns over 60% of his body. His face, shoulders, and chest received the brunt of the damage.

Daddy was admitted and they got him settled in his room. An elderly black man in a wheelchair sat at the door to daddy’s room and asked if he could come in. He wanted to talk the fire out. Because we believed, we welcomed him in. A day or two later when daddy was talking again, he asked the man if he’d share the gift with me. The old man took me to the end of the hallway, him in his wheelchair, and me sitting on the window ledge, and he told me. I’ll never forget his cloudy eyes and bent and gnarled hands as he shared this gift. And daddy walked out of there with one small scar on his shoulder.

I think about that old man a lot and I’ve used the gift many times myself. When I was writing Tell Me No Secrets (Book 2 in the Ava Logan series) I delved into research of Appalachian granny women. I based a character, Mary McCarter, on one with the gift. Mary and her son, Keeper, became two of my all-time favorite characters. Their story continues in book 3, Tell Me You Love Me. Both books have characters who believe in the old ways of the mountains, and those who don’t. Like real life. I’ve had someone back away, fearfully, after witnessing me talking the fire out of a co-worker’s steam burn. “It’s voodoo,” she whispered.

Readers: How about you? Have you heard about the old mountain ways? I’ll giveaway the complete digital set of the Ava Logan series (US only). All three eBooks to 1 winner.

Bio: Lynn Chandler Willis is a best-selling, award-winning author from North Carolina. She was the first woman in a decade to win the St. Martin’s Press Best 1st P.I. Novel competition. Her novel, Wink of an Eye, went on to earn a Shamus nomination. Her latest, the Ava Logan series, is set in her beloved Appalachia mountains. 

Buy link: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B001K7W7DU


57 Thoughts

  1. Lynn, you gave me shivers with this story! I definitely believe in the old ways but, like Sherry, I’ve never heard of talking the fire out.

    I see I have some new books to add to my TBR pile!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Edith! The kids I grew up had an aunt who could stop bleeding and an uncle who could talk away warts so they accepted talking the fire out without betting an eye 🙂

      1. Correction – BATTING an eye. Still on y first cup of coffee 😉

  2. Welcome, Lynn! This is such a fascinating story.We don’t have any healing stories passed down in my family, but I love reading about them.

  3. My Great Grandmother Buchanan was a granny woman with powerful knowledge in the needed skills in birthing babies and easing the rheumatism in old bones. My family are from the eastern Kentucky section of Appalachia. I definitely believe.

    1. I bet she could ease the pain from achy joints better than any medication, too!

  4. This sounds very interesting as I have never heard of talking the fire out.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Margaret. It’s funny how something that’s been around for centuries can go unnoticed.

  5. How interesting! I love stories like that. Unfortunately, nothing like that is in my family – but then again, we aren’t from Appalachia.

    1. The thing is, Liz, the stories aren’t as regional as you’d think. Every region has similar stories to tell.

  6. Lynn–this really caught my eye this morning and I absolutely loved hearing your story. I remember hearing all of the wonderful things your Dad done and I actually had the pleasure of meeting him once. Getting back to the mountain stories—I am an avid believer. My neighbor from childhood/which has passed away now had this gift. I remember people from near and far calling on him to talk fire out. I actually received this healing power from him once when I was younger. I am very fair skinned and played outside way too long. Back then sunblock was not an option. I remember my Mom calling this man and I remember after a short while my sunburned skin began to quit throbbing with pain and I actually settled down. So glad that you are blessed with this gift and Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Deb! It’s so important to keep some of the old ways alive, especially in the midst of a pandemic. It seems people take more of an interest when modern ways turn frightening.

  7. Stories set in Appalachia fascinate me. I lived and worked in Louisville for 8 years and visited Eastern KY as often as possible to see where some of the stories had their roots.

    1. Same here! There are many wonderful stories in those hollers. The good, the bad, and the ugly, but they’re real folks with real stories.

  8. I lived and worked in Louisville for many years. Trips to eastern KY helped me develop a deep interest in the stories and history of Appalachia, especially the Granny Midwives. Looking forward to reading about a Fire Talker.

    1. The granny women are so fascinating. And I adore Eastern KY.

  9. Lynn,

    I’ve never heard of “talking the fire out” before. I’m not really familiar with old mountain ways at all. But I have to admit that the Ava Logan series does sound really intriguing to me. I’m going to have to add it to my buy list.

    Please don’t add me as a potential winner for your giveaway though as I can’t read ebooks. I’ll have to find myself a physical copy to get started.

    1. We’ll just have to bring you up to speed on mountain ways 😉

    1. Well, now you know. It was my pleasure to share a small part of what makes Appalachia so special and beloved.

  10. I had never heard of talking the fire out before, but it sounds so intriguing. I definitely think certain people have gifts that can’t be explained by traditional means. This sounds like one of them.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Marla. I think when one comes to the conclusion that there isn’t an explanation for everything, that’s when they really start to see.

  11. Fascinating. I wasn’t familiar with talking the fire out….or some of these concepts until I became familiar with your well-written books. Glad to read you sharing the info here.

  12. I have never heard of a fire talker before this. Thanks for the giveaway and interesting interview.

    1. You’re welcome, Doward. And what an interesting name!

  13. I’ve never heard of talking to fire but the story sounds interesting

  14. Wow! I always suspected there was something special about your interest in Appalachia, more than just research into a mostly unknown way of life. Great post, Lynn. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Patti! So you noticed the “interest” is borderline obsession? LOL

    1. Thanks for the comment, Mark. Glad I could assist in the “what I learned today” mental filing cabinet.

  15. I’ve never heard of this, but it is fascinating and I would love to learn more. I wish I knew someone with such gifts. I do know of a South American shaman who treated a very injured man with folkways. His badly broken bone didn’t even show up on a x-ray when he returned to the US.

    I would love to win this series!

  16. Yes I have heard of old mountain ways and believe in them. I had not learned of fire talkers before.

    1. Hey Candy! I’m doing research on other gifts and can easily find myself lost in hours on hours of fascinating tales.

  17. My aunt could if you asked her to do it, and that was the first step you had to ask, rub a wart on your hand and it would just go away. She did it for my father once and I watched. What I took away from the experience was that both my aunt and my father believed she could get rid of the warts. And, she used the lowest register of her voice to talk to my father while she rubbed his hands. She talked so low and so quietly that I almost could not hear her. I don’t remember what she said, just how she said it. A fire talker is new to me, but is sounds like your father and the man who taught you were both gifted individuals.

    1. Thanks for the comments, Judy. I love hearing other peoples’ experiences with it.

  18. Thanks for the comment, Dianne. And good luck with the giveaway!

  19. My daddy could talk the fire out. He learned when he was young from a woman in Pleasant Garden. He didn’t mention the part about not telling a family member, but he did say it had to be the opposite sex. He did finally tell me not too long before he died. I don’t think I’m as good at it as he was!

    1. I feel the exact same way! But I have had the opportunity to use the knowledge over the phone when a cousin burnt her hand. Several miles separated us so it wasn’t feasible for me to go to her in person. Still hold my breath knowing that it worked.

  20. Thanks for visiting with the Wickeds, Lynn! I have never heard of this gift and am completely intrigued by it! Thanks so much for sharing such a fascinating and heartwarming story! I absolutely love anything that cannot be easily explained or easily dismissed!

  21. Though I have roots in Kentucky and the Appalachians, the interesting gift that I know about (though do not have), was one from Mexico. My mother had many ailments and one day, she was in a lot of pain. So our dear good saintly friend Nena came over. She took a fresh egg and rolled or moved it across my mother’s body from top to bottom. Then she broke it in a teacup and it was nasty. Bloody and full of pus, etc. Mother’s pain went away. It was amazing.

    1. And sometimes, oftentimes actually, they overlap 🙂

    1. Oh, I’d love to see it as a movie, too! Trust me on that. 🙂

  22. Thanks for sharing it’s fascinating history! I lived in KY & NC and have heard about the mountains and people who live there.

  23. I have not heard of this, but it sounds so fascinating – thank you for the chance to own your books and learn more

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