The latest book to be penned by Linda Kay Simmons is not an easy read. She admits it is actually quite dark. It is a “fictionalized memoir.” Fictionalized, because the names have been changed. A memoir because she knew the heroes of the story and they left the details of their lives in her hands.
"People tell me it is a great book, but they must read it then put it down," Simmons said. “It is like a car wreck you drive by and have to look. With the book you can’t help but finish it.”
Her books are mostly set in Roanoke, Franklin County and the surrounding area. She was born in Roanoke and now lives in Franklin County. Most of her novels have a historical theme. “Pissant and Cinderella” tackles the issue of incest and sexual abuse. It is set where it happened, in Ashland, Virginia.
“I knew Pissant and Cinderella as adults,” Simmons explained. "They’re a brother and a sister, and they’re both now deceased. And they told me stories, gave me notes, books and medical records. The older brother, Golden Prince was a narcissistic exploiter of his brother and sister. A full narcissist as was the mother in her eyes Golden Prince could do no wrong. She would see nothing that went on in the house, which was a Civil War house. It served as a Civil War hospital.”
Simmons knew the mother of the three children very well. She was a real estate broker when women did not do that type of work. “She had an overinflated ego, and she really broke the wings off of all three children and set the stage for all this to happen," Simmons said.
The mother turned their home into a boarding house and made Pissant sleep in the hall and rented out what had been his bedroom. That is where his sexual abuse started, with boarders who would pass by him sleeping in the hall.
“Word got out about him and the choirmaster at the local Episcopal Church invited him to come sing because he was a talented boy singer,” continued Simmons. “Pretty soon he was abusing Pissant in his basement.”
Cinderella became nothing more than a domestic servant and used sexually by her brother, Golden Prince. Cinderella got herself into more abusive situations throughout her life and Simmons believes she may have developed multiple personalities to cope.
“And I don’t know if this is real or not, she started having interactions with ghosts or spirits of Civil War soldiers in that house,” explained Simmons. “The story takes the whole twist with that. She really connects with one. And there’s sort of a paranormal love story. She finds a notebook from this soldier, and they could have been together in another lifetime.”
It is left up to the reader to decide if she was living in an alternate reality or if it was a coping mechanism created by multiple personalities. Whatever the answer, it gave Cinderella hope.
“I think they both just desperately needed somebody to talk to,” said Simmons. “And I knew everybody involved. And related to them in a family kind of way. And I guess that’s what gave me that privy. And when Pissant died I was the one that went and helped clean out his house.”
The book is available through Amazon. Simmons hopes the book finds its way into the right hands, counselors who could use it to help victims of sexual abuse.
“It’s doing some good,” added Simmons. “We had an event for SARA (Sexual Assault Response and Awareness) on Brambleton Avenue in Roanoke. They’ve sold books and I have donated money and done fundraisers.”
Pissant died 13 years ago. He had become a minister. Then he suffered a traumatic brain injury and started street preaching. Simmons interviewed the homeless who knew Pissant and found out he was still ministering, helping prostitutes and other homeless find clothes and jobs. He always had that very strong spiritual side, Simmons said.
Cinderella died five years ago. That is when Simmons started writing the book.
“Cinderella got into horses, she got into nature and other things that helped pull her out,” recalled Simmons. “And I think that’s what this book really shows is the intense spirituality and goodness within people, and how they still manage to go out into the world and make the difference. With everything that happened to them, they really did.”
The perpetuator, Golden Prince, is in his eighties now. He still owns a house near the Virginia Commonwealth University campus, which he rents out to college girls.
“Everybody knows somebody that’s been sexually abused,” said Simmons. “They may just not be aware of it. I had to get the story out of me. Instead of carrying it internally, now I can look at it externally and see the good that is doing. I had to do this for me and to show the value of Pissant and Cinderella’s lives.”