Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss
Valerie Fraser Luesse | Exclusive Excerpt: THE KEY TO EVERYTHING
Author Guest / June 5, 2020

The cottage appeared to be abandoned, but something about it took hold of Peyton. The tall flight of steps leading up into the trees was worn but solid, taking him onto a deep porch that encircled it, framed with gingerbread bannisters. Between the water and the edge of the yard, if you could call it that, was a stand of mangroves so thick and tall that they would likely block the water view eventually, but for now they just made the house feel protected. He could hear Finn advising him: If there ain’t no other shelter, why, head for the mangroves. They’ll hold back the tide. Walking the circumference of the cottage, Peyton could see that it was more porch than house. On the porch ceiling, he spotted two sturdy hooks about five feet apart. They likely had held a swing or a hammock at one time—long gone now. The whole structure from floor to ceiling was built of cypress. Its tall windows were all shuttered. Peyton unfastened the shutters covering one of them and peered inside. The place looked empty. He tried the front door, which immediately creaked open into a large room with a little kitchen built into…

Valerie Fraser Luesse | Dodging the Dreaded Coin
Author Guest / March 8, 2019

Spoiler alert: I’m about to seriously date myself. When I was in college, all my girlfriends were crazy about the movie Somewhere in Time, starring Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve. In case that film was before your time, it’s about a modern-day playwright named Richard Collins, who travels back in time to meet, court, and win the heart of Elise McKenna, a turn-of-the-century actress whose image and mysterious story have captivated him. Just as it appears that love will win the day, Richard reaches into his pocket and pulls out a forgotten 1979 penny, which immediately yanks him out of the past, away from his soul mate, and literally “back to the future.” My own stories are set in my native South, and I feel as if I spend a big chunk of my writing time dodging The Dreaded Coin, working as hard as I can to skirt my way around anything and everything that might yank a reader out of the story. It doesn’t take much. One factual inaccuracy (like putting the Brazos River in Mississippi) or one line of dialogue that sounds nothing like authentic Southern speech (“I’m mad about you! Mad I say!”), and the…

Valerie Fraser Luesse | Top Five Places To Experience “Southern Noir”
Author Guest / January 19, 2018

Years ago, I had the opportunity to interview singer-songwriter Kate Campbell, who remains one of my favorite artists. Kate talked about something she called “Southern noir,” which has nothing to do with crime novels and everything to do with sense of place. At certain spots in the South, you get the feeling that something is happening beneath the surface, something—maybe even something on the dark side—that you can feel but can’t see. Southern noir. Once you’re attuned to it, you can feel the undercurrents of our regional noir in places all over the South. Our grande dame cities—Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans—are givens. (Savannah’s on my bucket list, but I’ve rambled the other two.) If you’ve never known Southern noir, here are five more great places to experience it: Rural Alabama Back when we had a little more time on our hands, my husband and I used to break out the map on a Saturday morning, pick a road, and strike out on an Alabama ramble. We’ve roamed small towns like Wetumpka, Northport, and Mooresville, and had lunch at “meat ‘n threes”—down-home Southern cafes where you choose your meat and three vegetables from a menu posted on the wall. We’ve…