Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar

Posted by on Feb 27, 2015 | 11 comments

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar

This week my guest is Carol Heilman, author of Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar. I k now you will enjoy getting to know her and hearing about her book! 



Fabulous Fridays

Carol, I think you have an interesting life story, tells a little about yourself and how you started writing.

I began writing twenty years or so ago and Trish, a writing instructor for seniors, became my Barnabas. She taught a class for seniors in the community at one of our local hospitals. I called to sign up and was told I didn’t qualify. I wasn’t old enough. Imagine that. But I kept calling until the lady on the other end relented and said, “I guess we can let you come.”

I promised I wouldn’t tell anyone that I was fifty-two years old. Trish taught two classes, one creative writing, the other autobiographical. I first began writing the family stories—and I had plenty of material. Daddy thought everything I wrote was wonderful while Mother was horrified. She often said, “We don’t have any secrets any more.” I think I get my exaggerating traits from her.

Trish told me to keep writing. She helped me get my first tiny article published about my daddy’s Appalachian humor. She believed in me.

I give thanks to the good Lord for her. Everyone needs a Barnabas.


How did you come up with the idea for Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar?

The Story Behind Agnes:

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar began as a short story assignment for a creative writing class at the University of South Carolina over ten years ago.

Our instructor told us to place ourselves, along with some of our friends, in a foreign environment and to step back and see what developed.

I chose the porch of a retirement home because a standing joke, among a group of my friends and myself, was that one-day we would end up living in such a place together.Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar

Before I had written two pages the characters, with their own, unique names took on their own personalities. I was fairly new to such writing adventures and was taken aback. They began to assert themselves and I decided I needed to pay attention, to listen and watch—for my scenes often unfold like a movie in my mind’s eye.

The short story ended when Agnes slipped out the back door of Sunset Manor, the name of the retirement home at that time. Then I began to ask questions. What if she . . .

I wish I could be more like my protagonist, who is outspoken and spunky, but she has taken on some of the aspects of my mother’s spirit. Writing fiction is such fun! Agnes Hopper’s story continues to evolve and surprise me. I am delighted to have a part in the telling of it.


Tell us how much of yourself and the people you know you write into your characters.

I think bits and pieces, both the good and the bad, show up in my characters—but they evolve into their own selves rather quickly and I end up loving every one.


What is the biggest challenge/obstacle you face in protecting your writing time?

Social media. J If I’m not careful, it can eat up my time and energy and I have no creativity left inside my little brain. 


How did you go about researching and creating the setting?

I’ve always loved old people—a good thing because now I am one—and I have volunteered for years in independent and assisted-living homes. The elderly and their stories are simply amazing.


Why did you choose the particular theme? What were you trying to say to your readers?

I chose the setting as a creative writing assignment. I would like to give older folks a voice. They are often vulnerable and sometimes we (myself included) don’t listen to their concerns.


How would you like to inspire your readers?

To spend time with an older person in your life and to really listen to what that person has to say. We need to respect our elders and learn from them.


What new lessons is the Lord teaching you right now?

Patience, patience! The Lord has a plan and my job is to stay close to Him. If nothing turns out like I had planned and hoped and worked toward—that’s ok. He is Lord and in charge.


Can you tell us something that your readers might find surprising about you?

I once told a friend that if I had not married my husband, I might have become a gypsy and lived my life as a “free spirit.” She was shocked! In my younger days, I was a rebel—but only in my mind. My husband of fifty-two years has held me accountable for anything I do or say and has tried to make an honest woman out of me. J I am thankful for him, but writing is liberating and gives me that freedom I crave. I also give thanks to the good Lord for loving me, even the mess that I am.


What is one thing you recommend to writers who are starting out?

Never, never, never give up.  If you cannot live without writing, then keep writing, and find a group of like-minded fellow writers who will support you, love you, and gently critique your work. Don’t try this writing journey alone.


Book Blurb:

When circumstances cause Agnes Marie Hopper to move into the local retirement home, Sweetbriar Manor, she ends up an unwitting sleuth, uncovering deception, embezzlement, abuse, and intrigue. Her independent and protective nature leads to confrontation and a moment of truth, even within her own heart.


About the author:

Carol HeilmanCarol Heilman, a coal miner’s daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer’s son. She began writing family stories, especially about her dad’s Appalachian humor, for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, “We don’t have any secrets any more!”

Carol’s book, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, was inspired by her mother’s spunky spirit and her dad’s humor.

She is a recipient of two Carrie McCray Awards for writing excellence.

Carol lives in the mountains of NC with her husband of fifty-plus years. They love to play cards, go antiquing, hike, and visit grandsons on the east and west coasts


Connect with Carol on the Internet:



Author Page:






Book links:


Barnes & Noble:

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I found it so interesting when Carol discovered how her characters took off on their own and she needed to keep an eye on them rather than just write about them. Too cute! Would really love a copy of this book.

    • Thanks for stopping by!

    • Writing about Agnes and her friends continues. I am thankful for this journey. Many blessings to you. Carol

  2. It is nice to “meet” Carol here. Thanks Norma! I enjoyed this interview a lot 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Rhonda! It does look like a fun book!

    • Thanks, Rhonda. I appreciate your response. Many blessings.

  3. It was lovely to read this and to virtually “meet” the author. Your questions are great!

    • Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie! I hope you’ll be back again!

    • Thank you, Bonnie, for your comment. Norma Gail is a great interviewer. Blessings.

  4. I adore Carol Heilman. What a sweetheart. Thank you for sharing some of her story with us. This is one amazing woman.

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