As a 13-year-old student at Lanier Elementary School, getting chosen to be the writer/correspondent representing her school for The Daily Times was something Stephanie Higdon Edwards says catapulted her into the world of journalism.
She wrote weekly stories back then about what was going on at Lanier and got a small payment in return from the newspaper. That was how she honed her skills and ended up at the University of Tennessee.
“Journalism got into my blood,” Edwards said. While in high school at William Blount, she was a part-time writer, covering sports and also later became the school correspondent for her high school. Then she went on to study journalism at UT and while there, served as an intern for The Daily Times.
“I did the tasks that nobody else wanted to do, like obituaries,” Edwards explained. She said Larry Aldridge, editor at the time, agreed to let her write one story a week as long as she completed her other duties, too.
After graduating from UT, Edwards got a job at the then-weekly Knoxville Journal, starting an entertainment/travel section. While at that publication, she got the chance to interview East Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton.
The road to now
“That was a cool job for somebody right out of college,” the writer said. She later went on to work for a couple of nonprofits before landing her current job of writing internal communications for a bank. She’s been there for five years.
What had been nagging her for years was to take her writing to the next level by penning a book. Edwards said the idea was always in the back of her head, but she lacked the story.
That was until she visited Charleston, South Carolina, back in September 2018. She and her husband, Ron, rented a cottage just off the beach. One night, Edwards said she took a walk outdoors and got the inspiration she needed.
“The backyard had those oak trees that were just dripping with Spanish moss,” she described. “Standing in the backyard I thought, ‘this is a good place for a spooky movie. A ghost story.’ Charleston evokes that with all of its history. I decided I could write something about this. I am feeling this.”
The book she would come to write, “The Haunting of Palm Court,” had its beginnings as Edwards and her husband were on the way back to Knoxville; he was driving and she was writing. It would take her about five months to complete the first draft.
Conflict, romance and the paranormal
The story centers on two main characters, Blake, and her fiance, Parker, who turns out not to be who she thought he was. Blake discovers Parker has been unfaithful to her and one night in a fit of rage, he pushes her into a counter, causing injuries. His grip was tight enough to leave his handprints visible on her skin.
Blake, in a state of fear and desperation, heads to her grandmother’s cabin in Charleston to flee the violence and gain her bearings. She befriends Nancy, a friend of her grandmother’s.
“Nancy is what I call her navigator,” Edwards said. “She helps guide Blake through everything.”
The story gets sinister as Parker travels to Charleston to kill Blake; he is unsuccessful and meets his own death, but that isn’t the last of him. His spirit begins to haunt Blake and things escalate.
The town’s chief of police must step in to render aid. Clint, as it turns out, is Nancy’s grandson and was Blake’s first love.
“The Haunting of Palm Court” has elements of the paranormal, romance and mystery weaved into its pages. Blake discovers some family gifts, as Edwards call them, blessings she learns how to use to help her find her way past all of the pain and disappointment.
Those who are intrigued by this author’s first book can get it as an e-book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other retail sites. The paperback edition that comes with a companion coloring book will be available for presale soon. The official launch date for all three is Sept. 1.
Now that this one is done, Edwards said she already is working on the sequel. There will be paranormal undertones to this one, too.
Sightings from her past
“I guess I have always believed there is something we don’t understand,” she said. “Maybe it’s not a dead person standing right in front of me, but I have experienced things over the course of my life.”
She told the story of when she and her husband first got married and they lived in an apartment near Papermill Road in Knoxville. She said one evening she came home late from work and was about to crawl into bed.
“The moment I turned out the light, I saw the silhouette of a woman gliding across our bedroom wall,” Edwards said. “She was carrying an intricate cigarette lighter, with its flame glowing as she floated by. Naturally, I was scared to death. I pulled the covers over my head, and somehow I managed to fall asleep.”
Edwards said when she woke up the next morning, her husband’s tight-fitting wedding band was on her thumb. “We have no idea how it got there,” Edwards said.
She didn’t tell her husband about the apparition until the cigarette lighter showed up on her nightstand a few weeks later. He said a friend gave it to him in college, but he’d never filled it with lighter fluid because he doesn’t smoke.
“To my relief, we ended up moving out of that apartment a few months later,” Edwards said.
The book does contain some adult situations and some rough language. Edwards said her audience will probably be mostly women, but the paranormal aspect may have appeal to men as well.
Strength to endure
Blake, the main character, deals with a lot of serious situations, from the physical abuse at the hands of her boyfriend to almost being murdered by him. Edwards said she has been witness to abuse victims when she worked for a nonprofit that had a women’s shelter.
She told the story that she did, with Blake emerging a stronger woman, to let abuse victims know there is a way out.
“You don’t have to stay in a bad situation,” she said.
Her job is in Knoxville so that is where Edwards makes her home these days. She still had lots of family in Blount County, including her parents, Steve and Becky Higdon and aunts and uncles. Her family also includes sister, Jessica Higdon and brother, Jeff Higdon. She is still grateful for the opportunities afforded her here, including those early writing experiences.
“My heart will always be in Maryville,” the author said.