Betty J. Belanus is a folklorist, curator and education specialist at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. She lives in the Washington, DC area. She attended Smith College as an undergraduate and Indiana University for her M.A. and Ph.D.
Why did you write a novel about a folklorist in East Tennesee?
The material I used for the novel, Seasonal, was a fictionalization of my dissertation research. There was so much rich material from the Tennessee State Parks Folklife Project, which took place from 1979 - 1982, that it was just begging to be put into a readable format. And, who the heck really reads academic books? Very few people - sorry all my academic friends out there - so a novel was born.
What's the story behind your book?
I was a "seasonal folklorist" in the summer of 1980 at a couple of state parks in East Tennessee. It was a really rich experience. Then, as I said, I wrote my dissertation using that material and the experiences of the other folklorists that worked on the project. We collectively had some great stories! So, I gathered them into a narrative and there you go.
Rob Anderson's job as Seasonal Folklorist in the idyllic setting of East Tennessee leads to adventure and romance as he uncovers layer after layer of the legend of local murderer and outlaw Boyd Jenkins. By asking the right questions, Rob and the beautiful Ruthie Taggart find the truth behind Jenkins' intriguing past.