Q: You mention at the very end of your book that Moll Dyer is a real legend or ghost story. Please tell us more about her.
A: Oh my…well Dina- you asked for it! The historical evidence of Moll’s life is mostly undocumented. Courthouse records from the late 1600’s were destroyed in a fire. However, there is evidence of two Mary Dyers arriving in Maryland around this period (and Moll was a common nickname for Mary). There is also a letter written by a colonist referencing “Moll Dyer having a countenance so ugly it hurts to behold her.” Further circumstantial evidence includes a road named after her, and likewise a small run that traverses what is said to be the original Dyer homestead.
Most stories associated with Moll indicate she came alone to the colony from Ireland via England, but some oral tradition holds she was accompanied by an older male family member. Many reports describe her clothing as old and threadbare, but originally made of very high quality materials, such as nobility of the time might have worn. She was renowned for her curative prowess, and hated for her lack of any social graces. A virtual hermit, she traded herbal remedies with local Native Americans, and it is said she enjoyed their companionship over that of fellow Europeans. These traits, combined with a two year drought (causing devastating crop loss), an outbreak of disease, and a superstitious citizenry, spelled Moll’s doom.
In the dark of the coldest winter night in 1697, the colonists rose up against her, proclaiming her a witch. They formed a mob (encouraged by the governor!) and set Moll’s cabin ablaze. Somehow she escaped her funeral pyre, and fled blindly through the woods.
Several days later, a young lad, searching for his missing cow, stumbled upon Moll’s lifeless body. She was bent over a large rock at the river’s edge, frozen solid. When Moll was pulled away, the rock bore indentations where her palms rested and her knees touched. It is said the strength of her curse on the local citizenry engraved the marks.
The 300 pound rock now sits in the courtyard of the St. Mary's County courthouse with a simple plaque proclaiming it “Moll Dyer’s Rock.” Visitors to Maryland's southernmost county, overcome with curiosity, report both curses and cures after touching the infamous rock.
Q: How did Moll Dyer inspire you to write about her?
A: I was born and raised in a state that as a colony was founded on religious freedom. The same colony that humiliated and castigated Moll Dyer (mostly because she was different), burned her out and eventually caused her death. Her tragic tale has always drawn me in, haunted me, so she simply needed to whisper in my ear to motivate me.
Q: Do you believe in ghosts?
A: I do (and not from blind faith alone!).
Q: Have you been to her cabin in Maryland?
A: It really was burned to the ground, and its exact location is unknown, other than the road and stream it was on. There are some questions about her famous rock as well. It’s possible the “Moll Dyer rock” located at our local courthouse might not be the real one! Pictures taken during the 1930s seemed to show a much larger rock with substantial knee and hand indentations. I’ve received a clue where the “real” rock might be located, and if true, that might narrow down the cabin’s original location, but more to come on that!
Q: Are more Moll Dyer books in the making? If not, what are you working on?
A: I plan three altogether following her progeny over the years. The second one is set around 1810, and centers on Moll’s great grandson. It is currently undergoing my final revisions. The last one will be relatively current. Moll will have a cameo appearance in each!
Q: If Sister Witch became a movie, who would play Moll? Zachery? Sean? Nema?
A: Moll- Emma Roberts (American Horror Story), perhaps? Or Georgie Henley (Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe). Moll would consider actresses “fancy girls” I suspect, and she considered vanity the ultimate sin, so some serious makeup might be required for either lady.
Sean- Chris Evans or Karl Urban. Remember Sean was a bit of a “dandy” when we first met him.
Nema- Keke Palmer (Scream Queens, Animal) or Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow)
Zachary? HMMM. From baby to a 16 year old might be more than the makeup department can handle. For his more mature roles, I’d like the new kid (Alexander Calvert) on Supernatural. He has the inner good guy/bad guy turmoil figured out.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: Poe, Thoreau, Camus, Straub, Tolkien, some Stephen King...yeah, I’m pretty much a mixed bag.
Q: Did you plan/outline this book, or did you rely on inspiration as you progressed into the story?
A: Both. I started out with a vague outline, but as the characters told me stuff (mostly when I was trying to sleep), I had to reevaluate the direction I thought it should go. Strange how characters become almost real to you, isn’t it?
Q: Did Moll Dyer have a wolf dog? Do you have a dog? If so, what kind?
A: Local traditions says it is so, and many of the sightings of her in modern times indicate a ghostly wolf dog at her side. Our beagle, Uno, was with us for 15 years, and was the sweetest little pup ever born. We still miss her, and we haven’t yet had the heart to get another.
Q: Would you like to share an excerpt?
Dropping into a crouch, the man lifted his bow towards us.
Peter leapt from the fire and rushed him. The man dropped his bow and turned to face Peter’s charge with a savage smile on his face. Uncle went for his gun as Peter and the Indian collided and wrestled each other to the ground.
Uncle pointed his gun, but was unable to get a clear shot as they grappled.
“Peter, get out of the way!” Uncle yelled.
First Peter was on top, and then the other, and Peter again. My throat choked tight, as I searched for a stick to use as a weapon, and grabbed a burning brand from the fire.
“Stop it, get away from him!” I said, swinging the branch.
The strange man caught Peter under the arm and flipped him to the ground.
“Ouch, damn it, Two Bears, that’s enough!” Peter said with a laugh.
“Don’t move Peter, I’ve got him.” Uncle said, aiming the gun.
“No, Sean, stop!” Peter shouted. “Two Bears is a friend!”
Uncle lowered the gun with reluctance, unsure what was happening, and hesitant to drop his guard. The man named Two Bears stood and offered a hand up to Peter. He said something I could not follow, and Peter shook his head no, and they both laughed.
“Two Bears says my fighting has improved, but I still need a woman’s help.” He said pointing at the still burning stick in my hand. I tossed it back into the fire.
The two men walked over to us. “Easy Sean, everything’s fine,” he said holding his palms up toward us.
“Sean and Moll of the English, meet Two Bears of the Conoy.”
Q: How can we stalk you?
Thank you, Dina!
Thank you, Dave!
Sister Witch is about a young girl, Moll Dyer, who is from Ireland in the 1800s. She falls in love with the wrong man (James). He rapes her and she becomes pregnant. Her family protects her reputation by sending her to America with her uncle. On the passage to the states, she meets a couple, Gideon and Beth. They make plans that would help Moll and her uncle out. Beth is also pregnant, but she loses the baby and dies. Gideon blames Moll and calls her a witch. Her mother taught her a great deal about roots and plants which only adds to the 'witch' accusation once Moll settles in America. She and her uncle get a farm together in some kind of indentured-servant type of deal. Moll has her baby and names him Zachery. He doesn't know that she is his mother and grows up thinking he is her brother. Without giving too much away, Moll learns that some evil spirits are plotting against her and her son. She sacrifices it all.
This is a terrific tale for anyone. Great story-telling by David! I loved Moll and her Indian friends. I also love her dog, Waba. It reminded me of my dog. Great tale and highly entertaining. 5/5 Stars