Sylvania native Eva Marie Everson recently published her latest book, "The One True Love of Alice-Ann," a faith-based fiction novel from Tyndale House Publishers.
Everson lived in Screven County until she turned 19 and is a multiple award-winning author of more than 30 books. She is also the president of Word Weavers International, which is a writers' critique group, and the co-director of the Florida Christian Writers Conference.
What may be the most interesting facet of Everson's accomplishments to her home area, however, is the setting of her newest book. "The One True Love of Alice-Ann" is set in the fictitious Bynum, Georgia, and Everson intended for Bynum to be a stone's throw from Bulloch County.
"I was picturing the Screven County I knew as a child," said Everson of her book's setting. "I wanted my family and everyone in my home area to feel honored. I love the area I came from."
Everson's brother, Van Purvis, still lives in Sylvania, and she often makes trips from her home in central Florida to visit. She also has aunts, uncles and cousins in Bulloch and Tattnall counties.
"The towns of Collins and Register hold much of my maternal family history," she said. "Originally, the streets in Register were named by my maternal great-grandfather to reflect the names of his sons, but I think only Foster Street remains, so named after my great-uncle, Foster Collins.
Local settings in book
"I'm a direct descendant of the Revolutionary War hero Bridger Jones, who has a memorial at Lower Lotts Creek Church," she said.
"Register was a hopping place when I was a little girl. I remember the post office in Register, on a dirt street that used to go back into a field, and there was a gift shop."
Everson claims Collins, Nevilles and Kicklighter family tree members from the area and fondly remembers the years she spent in Statesboro.
"I lived in Bulloch County briefly and worked at what was then Bulloch Memorial Hospital in the 1970s, in pediatrics and in the nursery. I was also charge nurse, the 3 to 11 shift, at Nightingale Nursing Home. I loved working there!"
Everson's newest book takes place in 1941 and finds 16-year-old Alice-Ann dreaming of capturing the attention and heart of her brother's friend, Mack, despite their five-year age gap. But when they receive news of the attack on Pearl Harbor and Mack decides to enlist, Alice-Ann realizes she must declare her love before he leaves.
Mack promises to write but doesn't verbalize feelings for Alice-Ann before leaving. When his letters cease, Alice-Ann fears the worst - but a surprising phone call from overseas changes everything.
Readers find references to Bulloch County, Camp Stewart, Statesboro, Oak Grove Baptist Church, Savannah and several other familiar locations.
"I just fell in love with the characters," said Everson of her book. "I spent time talking to my own family and hearing their stories. I watched documentaries that said while we can, we should talk to the people of this generation.
"Today, we think of that era as romantic. Those people were hanging on to survive," she said.
Everson said the idea for Alice-Ann came about when she and her husband visited neighbors several years back around Christmas time. She and her husband, Dennis, spotted a framed Purple Heart medal, something they'd not known their neighbor Mack had been awarded.
Real-life Mack, the inspiration for her book's character, was shot down in the Pacific during the war, and his wife, Alma, was informed of his death. She moved back to her family's farm that had no phone. Six months later, his wife received news, by way of a neighbor who owned a telephone, that her husband was indeed alive and had been recovering first on a submarine and later in a Pearl Harbor hospital.
"I was working on my book 'Five Brides,' and this title, 'The One True Love of Alice-Ann,' popped into my head and wouldn't leave me alone," Everson said. "Mack and Alma's story came back to me, and, as any good novelist, I said, 'What if?'
"I put aside editing 'Five Brides' and wrote the whole synopsis, sent it to my critique partner to read, then sent it to Tyndale and went back to work," she said.
Everson said Alice-Ann validates the saying "Man makes his plans and God laughs," loosely paraphrased from Proverbs 16:9 - "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."
A successful writing career came later in Everson's life, but she's certainly packed a great deal into the career that began at the age of 40.
"I always wanted to be a writer, but a teacher once told me that was out of my realm, so I went into another field," she said.
She began writing for a children's ministry in 1996 and shortly after had a book idea that turned into a contract in just a couple of years.
"I know my journey to publication was a Cinderella story. And I know God used that to help me then turn around and help others, to help develop new writers.
"It helped that I've always been a book nerd," she said, laughing.