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 and create on the pages of my novels.
I stick with the adage to ‘write what I know’ and I know the South. 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 that 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.
Yeah, sure, I’ve created more than my share of hunky Southern men who drawl and even use the word ‘darlin’. But writing Southern women’s fiction is so much more than the accent. It’s primarily a sense of place, and stocked with those inherently wacky yet familiarly beloved Southern characters (remember Aunt Pittypat?)–most of whom I’ve met or find myself related to in real life. It’s the heat and the humidity, too, and the strong sense of family, good homestyle cooking (think Paula Deen), and warm hospitality. That’s the Southern part, anyway. To make it women’s fiction, I make the protagonist a strong but flawed woman at a crossroads in her life. I toss her and the setting together and, voila! Southern women’s fiction results.
When I sit down to write, I close my eyes and picture myself at my grandmother’s Indianola, Mississippi home–always alive with the sounds and sights of the South–and try to recreate those senses for my readers. My dream is for my readers to close my books with a sigh and a laugh, and for a craving for some really good fried chicken.