“Writing is not hard; finding time to write is hard.” Although she has been retired for several years, Joyce Southern Bennett of Jasper laments that it is hard for her to find time to do what she loves – writing. However, she does find the time, and because of her efforts she has accomplished something of which most authors can only dream – a novel which has been selected as the basis for a television series.
Although previously she had written three inspirational books, Side Trails is her first novel. In the Preface of her book, Bennett confides, “In a few months, I will be eighty-years of age. I have written my very first novel.” The plot description in the liner notes reads, “A young preacher in the 1800s was on his first assignment to the mining camps in Wyoming when he met three teenagers and a baby whose ma and pa had just been killed in a wagon accident. The rest is an adventure of memorable proportions. You will laugh and you will cry along with the beloved characters of this epic journey.”
Bennett says the book is “a blessing from God,” because it has been selected as the basis for a television series. Two years ago, she signed a contract with Blue Heron Films which plans to begin filming this week near Columbus, Ga. The actual site of filming is Westville, described as a living history museum which possesses several 1800s era vintage buildings. According to the series’ producer, Sue Ann Taylor, the screenplay for the first 13 episodes have already been written and she hopes the series will premiere in the fall of 2024.
Taylor has also confirmed that negotiations are currently underway with two networks. Blue Heron Films, a Georgia-based production company, may be best remembered locally for producing the Christmas feature film, Charlie’s Christmas Wish, which was released in 2020. That movie, which starred Diane Ladd, was filmed in several north Georgia communities including Ball Ground, Ellijay, and Alpharetta.
Of the actors set to appear in Side Trails, most notably is the actress Lesley-Anne Down who has starred in several major motion pictures as well as the popular 1980’s mini-series North and South and she has also appeared in the long-running television daytime serial drama, The Bold and the Beautiful.
A resident of Jasper for the past three years, the Side Trails author, Bennett, is originally from the Ellijay area. Her last job before her retirement was working for eight years in a Walmart pharmacy. She has one son and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Writing books was not Bennett’s first artistic venture. Instead, she began writing songs several decades ago, but she admits she was not very successful at songwriting. When she was asked about her inspiration for her writing, she replied, “When I had my morning devotionals, the Lord would reveal a scripture to me,” and it was that which she would use as her inspiration.