Research Makes for Great Stories ~ by Author Stacy Hawks

After graduating from Brevard College in 2008, Stacy Hawks  returned to her hometown to teach and work on completing her MEd. Some years before, in 2005, her grandmother had passed leaving Stacy her scrapbook filled with notes, newspaper clippings, and photos. 

It wasn’t until Stacy opened the scrapbook that the story from Terry Martin of the Winston-Salem Journal dated 1981 caught her attention. At that moment, the historian in her knew how important this story was. Not only had the case of Elva Brannock, whom everyone described as a 17-year-old brunette beauty, gone cold for over 70 years by this time, but the stories of those who had worked tirelessly to solve it had also gone untold.

There were a lot of late nights, weekends, and spare moments during lunch breaks to tackle the research. None of which would have been possible without the amazing individuals who work for the local Newspaper, The Alleghany News (formerly The Alleghany Times), and the Register of Deeds Office. 

Stacy's editor, Lynn Worth, who passed a couple of years ago, was also instrumental. Without her insight and edits, Stacy wouldn't have been able to take the next step in publishing the book. However, despite it being finished and the edits mostly complete, Dividing Ridge remained on her hard drive for 8 more years.

Stacy wrote to publishing houses, printed off and mailed her manuscript to countless presses, and with no success finally decided to take a step back and do some research into self-publishing. She says this was perhaps the best decision she made when it came to her writing. Thankfully, her local community is also home to Star Route Books and Imaging Specialists, Inc.

Owner Jeff Halsey, who works alongside his daughter Claire Halsey Brooks, has been involved in her local community’s historical society for years. Their efforts to preserve, educate, and provide a sense of pride in Alleghany heritage drew Stacy to ask if they would publish her debut novel, Dividing Ridge: The Unsolved Murder of Elva Brannock.

Imaging Specialists, Inc. and Star Route Books offered guidance in everything from mark-up pricing to the cost of marketing and author copies. Jeff Halsey also used his own image from Devils Garden, an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stacy's book title was inspired by that photo. In case you’re wondering, yes the book’s title is significant, it is the name of the local school Elva attended.

A portion of the proceeds from her book is going to the efforts of the Alleghany Historical-Genealogical Society museum located on our beautifully and recently revitalized Main Street. 

It was through the Historical society that Stacy was able to host her first book signing in September 2019. It was also the first place she met her main character's granddaughter, Brenda Irwin Frizzell. Brenda’s grandfather, Sheriff Walter Irwin, tirelessly searched for Elva’s murderer longing to bring the perpetrator of such a crime to justice. The ability to have these moments was well worth all those tireless nights researching and the pain of being turned away from publishing houses.

Her advice to anyone looking to publish would be to write about something you love, find a great editor, and really do your research on traditional versus self-publishing before you commit. It pays to have a great support system, too. If you cannot find it in family or friends, look for a writing group. There are online groups available now that were not available before. Publishing is certainly something Stacy never thought she would do, but now that it has happened she cannot wait to do it again.

Author Stacy Hawks
Stacy Hawks is a resident of Alleghany County, North Carolina located in the Blue Ridge mountains. After graduating from Alleghany High School as an NC Scholar, Stacy received her Associate of Arts Degree from Wilkes Community College, NC, a Bachelor of Arts in History Cum Laude from Brevard College, NC, and a Masters of Education degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA.

Stacy is the author of a research paper completed during her time at Brevard College titled "The Success of the New Deal in Cherry Lane Township." The research helped to focus her interest on the Blue Ridge Parkway and how the project shaped Alleghany County.

She is also an Author in Residence for Appalachian Memory Keepers and her articles have been featured on the site discussing the history of places, events, and people of the rural mountain community she is proud to call home. 

Currently, Stacy is the author of three books, two being poetry. She is working on her third and final poetry book, and second novel, which is also a historical-fiction/true crime story that happened in her community.

When Stacy isn't working or writing, she is reading one of her favorite authors:  Jan Morris, Horace Kephart, Harley Jolley, Margaret Brown, Steve Berry, Vince Flynn (Kyle Mills). You can reach out to Stacy at the links below.


  1. Stacy, it's a joy having you as our guest today. Your research certainly led you to an interesting, factual story. I hope you visit us again in the future.

  2. Thanks for sharing our journey with us.


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