Greg Lilly rolls out of the chute with a combustive attitude in his new novel, “Stray” (Cherokee McGhee, 2019, $24.95).
It’s the story of a mystery man, based on the tale of a long-time Washington County family, and “the disappearance of the seventh son” about 30 years ago, Lilly said.
“The story developed as I thought about my own family and the dynamics between my father and my uncles and grandfather,” Lilly said.
“Stray” takes place in many of the real-life places that Lilly has called home or visited — from Richmond and Charlottesville in Virginia to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The fictional family of “Stray” resides between Bristol and Abingdon.
Lilly also pays homage to John S. Battle High School of Bristol, Virginia, and the Martha Washington Inn of Abingdon, the town where Lilly lives today.
“These are places I love,” Lilly said. “I have lived in these locations or have attachments there. I set my stories in real places and let the characters reflect the sense of place and time.”
In “Stray,” the character of Taliesin MacGuire promises his grandmother that he will discover why his father left 30 years ago and never returned to his family.
“Time is the enemy in this tale,” Lilly said. “Time erases memories and paper trails of daily lives.”
Lilly, 56, has released a series of earlier books, including “The Wolf Crystal,” “Sunset & Semicolons: A Frank & Revealing Field Guide to the Writing Life,” “Scalping the Red Rocks: A Derek Mason Mystery” and “Under a Copper Moon.”
With “Stray,” the writer incorporates Scots-Irish legends in the names of the characters, which, in turn, shadow the characters’ personalities, Lilly said.
Lilly also adds a trace of early American history — including a subplot involving the Lost Colony of North Carolina’s Roanoke Island in 1587.
“This is the most personal book I’ve written,” Lilly said. “Our own family legend was the day my father moved out — his first step toward the eventual divorce. He disappeared. That stays with a 13-year-old son. I knew this story would emerge in my writing at some point.”