April 16, 2010 A.E. Willis, an eighth-generation Southerner, has sold a novel based on her family’s history in Tennessee. The book was bought by Grove/Atlantic, the publisher of Cold Mountain. Stories of her father’s growing up in rural Pocahontas, Tennessee, during the 1940s and 1950s inspired Willis’s novel, to be titled The Lost Saints of Tennessee.
Agent Amy Rennert describes the book as an “an elegiac, multigenerational novel about the intersections of love, loyalty, and self-sacrifice in a working-class Southern family.” It is set in the 1940s and 50s in rural Tennessee and Virginia, and is scheduled for a summer 2011 release.
Willis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Her ancestors immigrated to America via South Carolina in the 1700s to escape religious persecution in England and Scotland. The family tree includes three Revolutionary War soldiers. Ms. Willis graduated with honors from Mills College and won the Ardella Mills Writing Prize her senior year. In 2007 she received an Emerging Writer Grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation to complete this novel.