An Interview with Jan McCarthy, Creative Author of Gnome Novels

If you’re anything like me, you love to read…especially if those books feature GNOMES as the heroes. I recently met a UK-based author named Jan McCarthy who has written a series of gnome novels published on Amazon. Her husband’s gnome garden inspired her to write about gnomes, and Jan has even created her own Gnomish language. Here’s an example: Breganti ash, muntili! (Translates as May your clan flourish, friend of gnomes!)

To better understand Jan’s connection to gnomes and how she writes about them, I asked her a few questions to learn more!

1.) Can you tell me about your husband’s gnome garden and why it inspired you to write about gnomes?

“Terry and I took over a community garden and one of the features was a spiral herb garden. He hadn’t had his own garden for a number of years, having worked as a chef in the Canary Islands, and straight away insisted on gnomes being added! We began with the four Blackthorn brothers and others were added whenever we found them or received them as gifts. They all have tree clans, special talents and unique characters.”

2.) What is it about gnomes that makes them such wonderful characters in your books?

“My gnome characters have a tremendous closeness to each other and to the natural environment. They know how to live the good life, yet at the same to “walk the humble walk” as they tread the earth. They are wise, funny, brave and resourceful.”

3.) How did you create the Gnomish language, and why is it important that gnomes have their own language in your books?

“When I wrote the first chapter of The Great and The Small in which hero Archie Prescott gets to hear the gnomes speak, they naturally spoke English a little awkwardly, which added to their charm. That prompted me to think that they must be Gnomish speakers. Gnomish is important, because it is something that illustrates their distinctive culture and history, I think. For example, when they say farewell, their word is ‘Flabbaaray’ but to express emotion at parting, they can stretch the word out: ‘Flabbaaaaaaaraaaaaaay!’ Thus, they can keep control over their emotions, but let the person they are parting from know how sad they are.”

4.) What is one challenge that you’ve come across while writing about gnomes?

“Ha! I love this question! It’s remembering the relationships and interactions and things in their belief system across all my books. I’ve had to write all that down so I don’t make mistakes. Also, showing how they – especially the younger gnomes under 500 years old – develop in their use of English and learn to use digital technology!”

5.) Anything else you’d like to add?

“I often imagine I’m speaking to one of my gnomes – Nigel Blackthorn especially – when I’m working on plot, and funnily enough in real life too! Faced with a problem or a conundrum, I ask Nigel (who is a rigorous thinker and doesn’t put up with any nonsense or excuses) what I should do. Funny how real your characters can become when you invest in them.”

You can learn more about Jan and her work on her website, www.janmccarthyauthor.com, and her Amazon page, https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jan-McCarthy/e/B013YN8BSC. As a final fascinating note, there are no female gnomes in Jan’s version of events. She explains the lack of lady gnomes in her books like this:

“Gnomes mate with their clan tree by means of a tiny tree root into their tummy button. The tall hat is an incubator for the gnomeling, which grows out of the top of the father gnome’s head. A bit like the goddess Minerva. It occurred to me that a gnome wouldn’t wear a tall hat to look taller or more important.”

Gnome Protests: Standing in Solidarity, Fighting the Good Fight

Now gnomes don’t often like to get involved in human politics. After all, they have much better things to do with their time – like growing gardens, causing mischief, and drinking grog. In fact, the simplicity and peacefulness of gnomes’ lives is what drew many of us to them in the first place!

Yet it’s impossible to ignore the politics and injustices happening in the world today, and not even gnomes can stay silent all the time. Here are a few examples of how gnomes have been involved in protests all around the world.

Gnomes Against McDonalds

One of the most famous of gnome protests took place in Australia in 2013, when gnomes took a stand against a new McDonalds restaurant coming to the small town of Tecoma. The 24-hour fast food drive-thru threatened to ruin the gnome’s peaceful existence. Since then, the Tecoma gnomes have taken on lighter pursuits, like breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest gathering of people dresses as garden gnomes. Check out the “Gnomeageddon” story here!

Gnome for Better Garden Care

A German garden store called Toom released an ad with Ogilvy Action in Düsseldorf a few years ago, featuring gnomes protesting neglected yards and inhospitable conditions. In a dramatic reenactment, gnomes left their homes and marched to the center of the city to share their plight with the world and demand a better backyard environment. Gnomes protested to convince Germans to take better care of their gardens, and they succeeded. You can watch the full video here!

Gnomes for Lower Energy Rates

Gnomes made the news last fall when they marched in Toronto to protest rising electric prices that residents can’t afford. These protesters hailed from the North Hastings chapter of the Gnomes for Justice and Equality, which is a group that supports various advocacy efforts. One member explained these gnomes do not promote any specific political party or social agency, but are community members who want to address issues of rural poverty and hunger. These gnomes are working to create positive change in the community and welcome anyone willing to put on a red hat to join them. Read more about their efforts here!

Are the gnomes in your home activists and revolutionaries? Or are they peaceful types that steer clear of controversy and drama?

A Gnome-Themed Campground in Pennsylvania Amish Country

We gnomes absolutely adore the camping lifestyle. From coast to coast and everywhere in between, we’ve stayed at lots of campgrounds, but perhaps none more special than one in the tiny unincorporated community of Narvon, Pennsylvania.

Lake in Wood Camping Resort is the one and only gnome-themed campground that I have ever encountered. It’s also a convenient place to stay if you want to see the Amish communities and local shops of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Strasburg, and Hershey, Pennsylvania are easy day trips from here too.

This is a huge RV and cabin resort that’s packed with amenities including a Gnome Café that serves up burgers and fries, a 9-hole mini-golf course with gnomes scattered around the putting greens, and a gift shop with lots of gnomes for sale to decorate your campsite. One of my very favorite things about this campground was that many of the campers decorated their individual sites with friendly and festive gnome scenes. The Gnome Café was also a real treat with all of its plush gnomes waiting to meet you on the walls and along the floors.

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Other campground amenities include modern laundry facilities, a boat launch for taking paddle boats on the small lake, and an indoor/outdoor pool with spa. Events are scheduled throughout camping season with activities like chili cook-offs, laser tag, country music, and bingo. Oddly enough, there are even a few resident goats that live at the campground, which you can watch climb on their rock piles and platform behind a fence!

If “roughing it” isn’t really your thing, a fun way to experience this campground with all the comforts of home is to rent a cabin. There are lots of cute, themed cabins available, but my personal favorite was the Gnome Home, which is decorated with gnomes and sleeps up to two adults and four children. To treat your kids to something special, book the Gnome Playhouse and the staff will deliver it when you arrive! Campground rates vary depending on the season and what you stay in, and you can take a virtual tour on Lake in Wood’s website.

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But of course, as a campground connoisseur, no campground is perfect…not even ones inhabited by gnomes. The bathrooms were outdated and only moderately clean, golf carts zipping around make roads risky for pedestrians, and the RV sites were very close together. But if you’re as big of a gnome enthusiast as I am, these are all things that you’ll willingly endure to camp among the gnomes.

This all just goes to show that home isn’t just where you park it, home is where your gnome is!

XOXO,
Kamikaze

Spending a Day with Rich Humphreys of Gnome Countryside

One of our human companions named Alyssa has been so kind as to share a guest post with us about her tour of Gnome Countryside. But from a human perspective of course. Seems like a pretty rad place. Who else wants to check this out with us?!

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One of my favorite things about being part of a community of gnome enthusiasts is getting the opportunity to meet other collectors and swap stories. As a writer with an insatiable spirit of wanderlust, my travels have led me to many amazing people who inspire me to keep collecting and spreading the joy of gnomes.

This summer, I had the opportunity to meet Rich “The Gnomeman” Humphreys at the one and only Gnome Countryside, tucked away in the peaceful rolling hills of Kirkwood Pennsylvania. For 35 years, Rich has been entertaining and educating kids and adults in his “Gnomery” and enchanted forest.

Rich, a long-time diabetic who nearly lost his sight to diabetic retinopathy, created Gnome Countryside after teaching school in Alaska for 12 years. He renovated this beautiful property and interwove the stories of gnomes into his nature tours. Rich first became enchanted by gnomes on a trip to Denmark, and he even dresses like a gnome in a wonderfully eccentric fashion!

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I first learned about Rich’s mission and Gnome Countryside in 2014 under tragic circumstances. Local news sources reported that a fire devastated his 220-year-old log home, destroying his possessions, but never his spirit. He has since rebuilt his home, and it’s just as beautiful as ever.

My tour of Gnome Countryside began in the Gnomery, a cozy room filled with wonderful gnomes where Rich shared stories, environmental facts, and songs with his captive audience. Then we followed The Gnomeman through the wooded trails, using our five senses to appreciate the rugged beauty that surrounded us. Small gnomes and gnome homes could be found along the trails (if you looked closely), and they were surely very happy here. Other highlights of the visit included listening to the waterfall sounds of Gnome Gniagra, participating in a drum circle, and building gnome homes and rock towers in the woods.

Gnomes and nature go hand-in-hand, and this is a place to embrace that relationship and celebrate stewardship of the environment and a sense of community in the outdoors. Through Gnome Countryside, Rich empowers visitors to return home with a renewed love for the environment and a commitment to protect nature. Gnome Countryside celebrates the legends of gnomes, teaches us about gnomes and nature, brings your senses to life. With a creative sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye, Rich’s dedication to nature and all its creatures is contagious.

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You too can visit Gnome Countryside if you only travel to the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country! Rich is an incredibly friendly and kindhearted man who loves to chat, so give him a call at 717-786-4928. Gnome Countryside is a favorite among school group tours, but he also leads individual two-hour tours at a rate of $10 per person. Morning and afternoon tours are typically available Monday through Saturday from April through October, rain or shine.

 

***A version of this story will be published in the upcoming edition of the International Gnome Club Newsletter!***

The Antique Gnomes of Rock City – Chattanooga, Tennessee

*Disclaimer: This article was written by a non-gnome human, named Alyssa, who is obsessed with gnomes and travel. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Drunk Gnomes, but they probably do anyway because they’re awesome.

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On a recent drive from Illinois to Georgia, I made a pit stop in Chattanooga, Tennessee and decided to check out the famous attraction advertised on all the highway billboards: Rock City. Much to my delight, the nature paths and caves here are filled with gnomes!

I knew I was in for something special when the road leading up to Rock City was called “Ochs Highway.” No joke. Clearly, this place was meant for me.

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History of the Rock City Gnomes

In the late 1920s, Garnet and Frieda Carter began developing a walkable garden on their private estate to share their love for the region’s rock formations and native plants with the public.

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The husband-wife team opened Rock City Gardens during the Great Depression and had over 800 barns painted to advertise and attract tourists to Chattanooga. They gave the attraction its name because the rocks on top of Lookout Mountain looked like city buildings and the natural pathways like streets.

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Frieda Carter loved European folklore and fairytales, and she was an avid gnome collector. So naturally, many of her gnomes made it into the local attraction.

Gnomes Along the Enchanted Trail

Your gnome journey begins at the new Gnome Valley installation, which is a growing collection of whimsical space at the beginning of the Enchanted Trail.

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As you walk along the beautiful and easily accessible trail, you’ll notice even more gnomes peeking behind rocks to greet you.

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Keep an eye out for little red hats as you navigate the trail to Lover’s Leap, the 180-foot suspension bridge, Mother Goose Village, and the summit where you can see seven states on a clear day.

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Another awesome part about Rock City is that the whole place is dog friendly!

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The Gnomes of Fairyland Caverns

But by far, the best place to see gnomes is inside Fairyland Caverns, as this is home to Frieda’s collection of antique, imported German gnomes.

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Inside this cave, gnomes are situated into scenes that are illuminated by black lights.

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You instantly feel a sense of magic as you pass by the Castle of the Gnomes, Carnival of the Gnomes, the Moonshine-Brewing Gnomes, and many other displays.

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Admittedly, some of the scenes were a bit on the creepy side. But isn’t that what fairy tales are really all about anyway?

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Antique Gnome Restoration

Since the Rock City gnomes date back to the 1920s and 1930s, many of them were in desperate need of repair. Rock City’s resident art specialist, Matt Dutton, created a “Gnome Infirmary” to restore the residents to their original splendor.

Matt consults old photos to keep the gnomes’ coloring consistent, painting and repairing them as needed. He uses urethane resin and a hardener to fills his handmade molds to restore each little one’s unique personality.

The Gnome Mascot & Gift Shops

A red-hatted, white-bearded gnome named Rocky is the mascot for Rock City, and you might meet him walking around in costume! Yet no roadside attraction would be complete without a gift shop, and the one at Rock City is stocked with lots of gnomes you can take home as souvenirs.

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My souvenir of choice? A purple t-shirt that reads, “I’m a rock climbing, trail trekkin’, gnome lovin’ nature kinda girl.” I couldn’t have come up with a more perfect motto for myself!

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*A version of this story is scheduled to be published in the next issue of the International Gnome Club newsletter!