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A Southern Perspective - Guest Post with Karen White

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A Novel Source: A Southern Perspective - Guest Post with Karen White

10/28/10

A Southern Perspective - Guest Post with Karen White


I have been raised in the South since I was in middle school, and I was born in the deep south just off the coast of South Carolina.....so I think I can officially call myself a 'southern belle.'  I've lived in every part of the country for small snippets of time and I can honestly say that I love having been raised a southerner.  There's just something about the steel and the magnolia that becomes a part of most women who are raised here. That's not to say other women are not just as strong or just as sweet. I know of many all around the country including my Grandmother who is most definitely NOT southern, but she epitomizes the attributes a southern woman is known for. Perhaps it's the slower way we operate in the south, or the drawl that instantly tells people where we're from....
I think because I am so proud of my heritage, and because I strongly desire to read about other women who are strong, sweet and southern, is partly why I love Karen White's books so much. Her heroines are real women I would want as friends. And her writing style has just that bit of humor to wash down the tragedy that life tends to hand us. Well, I could go on and on and on and on, but allow me to let you read for yourself ~


NORTH AND SOUTH:  SEPARATED BY A COMMON LANGUAGE

When people ask me what I write, I tell them that I write ‘Southern women’s fiction’.  To clarify, I usually follow that with the (hopefully) more clear ‘grit lit.’  Although that frequently elicits a grin or two, it rarely seems to explain what it is that I try to create on the pages of my novels.
I stick with the adage of ‘write what I know’ and I know the South.  Although I’ve only lived in the South for little more than half my years, I come from a long line of Southerners.  My father’s family has lived in the South since before the American Revolution and both of my parents were born and raised in Mississippi—my father on the Gulf Coast and my mother in the Delta.  I have relatives still living there who most people from other parts of the country would need a translator to understand.  But when I hear them speak, I simply feel as if I have found home.
            I don’t speak with a Southern accent, but I do occasionally use the word ‘y’all’, would never consider wearing white shoes before Easter or after Labor Day, and have been known to say ‘bless her heart’ when what I was really thinking was something a lot less generous.  It’s the Southern way, after all, learned beneath my grandmother’s kitchen table where I sat and listened to my mother and her four sisters chat and gossip while drinking coffee into the wee hours of the night.  It is those soft voices, thick like the mud of the Delta, that I hear when creating the strong Southern women in my novels.
            Although all of my novels are set below the Mason-Dixon line, the most Southern of all my novels, Falling Home, will be released this November.  It’s set in the fictional small town of Walton, Georgia—which is really a conglomeration of several real Southern towns I have known including Monroe, Georgia and my mother’s hometown of Indianola, Mississippi.  I even borrowed the catch phrase on Walton’s welcome sign, “Where Everybody is Somebody” from a town I’ve driven through somewhere in Georgia.  Yes, it’s a real thing. 
            Because it’s set in rural Georgia, I was able to really go to town with every Southernism I’ve ever heard (mostly from my Mississippi cousins). Seriously, there are some very clever sayings that I must admit can’t be worded any better.  For instance, when the town doctor in the novel says, “that dog won’t hunt” in reference to a Mercedes that won’t start, it’s pretty clear what he means.  Or when he refers to a particularly obnoxious character as, “a booger you can’t thump off,” it is completely understood how he feels about that person.
            But my all-time favorite is when a young fourteen-year-old in a fit of exasperation proclaims, “butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”  Now, there’s really no definition for that as it tends to be defined by the content of the paragraph it’s couched in.  All I know is that my copy editor (in New York) didn’t get it.  Tried to translate it and reword it.  She actually tried to do that with most of my Southernisms.  For “rode hard and put up wet,” she spent about three sentences trying to rework it. 
            After I calmed down, I calmly wrote “STET” on all passages (a copy editing remark that just means to keep as the author originally wrote it) and moved on.  After all, she’s from New York and doesn’t know our customs.  Bless her heart.
            Now, before you get all riled up, don’t accuse me of not liking Yankees.  I married one, after all (my husband was born in Brooklyn, New York, for the record).  And my best friend in the whole world lives in Philadelphia so it’s not like Northerners and Southerners have nothing in common.  But really, we’re a country divided.  Let’s just say that the low-fat, heart-healthy diets that began emerging in the 1980’s didn’t have their start in the South.  Not that healthy eating is a bad thing, it’s just that most of us in the South consider a life without biscuits and fried chicken at least once in a while is one hardly worth the effort.
            In Falling Home, despite its very Southern setting and characters, the novel centers around subjects that everyone can relate to regardless of where you come from:  family, home, and forgiveness.  At the center of the story are sisters Harriett and Cassie, estranged for fifteen years, who suddenly find themselves thrown together to uncover an old family secret, and to fight an enemy nobody saw coming.  It’s a story about the importance of community, and knowing that you’re with people who’ve known you all your life and love you anyway.
            Ultimately, it’s about characters most people can relate to, going through situations we’ve probably faced, too.  In Falling Home, I’ve tried to create a story that when readers finish the last page, I want them to throw away the used tissues, sigh with satisfaction, and feel as if they’ve just met a whole bunch of new friends.  And then reach for a piece of fried chicken. 
Okay, maybe not that last part. 
  
Falling Home 


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11 Comments:

Blogger Amused said...

Great post! If I didn't want to read this book already, now I really do!

10/28/10, 11:24 PM  
Blogger Stacy at A Novel Source said...

Amused ~ it's a wonderful book! I should have my review up this weekend! I hope you signed up for the giveaway I have for her book too :-)

10/29/10, 12:22 AM  
Blogger bermudaonion said...

I love "grit lit" and look forward to the Southernisms in this title - maybe I'll learn a few new ones.

10/29/10, 7:43 AM  
Blogger Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

What a great post! "butter my butt and call me a biscuit!" HA!
I am really enjoying Falling Home, reading it now!

10/29/10, 9:03 AM  
Blogger Zibilee said...

how funny that her copy editor wanted to change all her southern sayings! I have a friend who is from the south, and she is just one of the strongest and most admirable women that I have ever met. She also cooks like nobody's business and has given me a few lessons that my family is very thankful for! This was a great interview and I look forward to reading the book! Thanks, Stacey!

10/29/10, 10:26 AM  
Blogger Carin S. said...

weird that the copyeditor didn't eventually catch on. Next time you might rquest a Southern copy editor. They're freelance and scattered all around the country so it shouldn't be too hard for the publisher to oblige. BTW, Southerners eat more vegetables than the rest of the country. I think our eating habits get a bad rap they don't deserve. Philly cheese steak anyone? AKA heart attack on a bun?

10/29/10, 1:41 PM  
Blogger Jenners said...

Well, I'm a Yankee but that Southern diet sounds pretty darn good to me!

And I love all the Southern phrases!! Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!

10/29/10, 8:43 PM  
Blogger Julie P said...

Great post! This book is on my wish list. And I think I will reach for that piece of fried chicken--yummy!

10/29/10, 9:52 PM  
Blogger Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

I adore Southern fiction :) There's something so relateable about the characters.

10/29/10, 11:36 PM  
Blogger Cleverly Inked said...

I love the south. Nothing better then southern food ;)

11/1/10, 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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11/1/10, 10:34 PM  

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