Sunday, November 27, 2011

Comparing Southern writers to Dostoevsky

Check out the really interesting premise of Benjamin Saxton's thesis at Rice University. He analyzes the "Southern grotesque" of Flannery O'Connor, Carson McCullers, and William Faulkner and argues that they were influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Put very simply, both the Southern writers and the Russian writer used "grotesque" misfits to illuminate truths about the world at large. Saxton takes Southern literature to a whole new level!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Indie Thursday

Help promote indie bookstores everywhere by Tweeting about your purchases from an independent bookstore every Thursday. See the site: for more info. Start spreading the word!

Okay, yesterday I visited Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough, NC, and bought some children's books by local authors and a CD by Katharine Waylan and Her Fascinators. Good timing, huh?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Author Interview: Savannah Rose

I recently interviewed Savannah Rose, a contemporary romance author from Southside, Alabama. She's written two romance novels -- And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is and Whistle Creek -- and shared some great insights about being a Southern writer.

Please tell us briefly about yourself—when you first began writing and a little bit about your novels.

I was born in Alabama and I have always lived in Alabama. I am an identical twin; my other half will tell you she is the baby. We are eleven minutes apart. I write and she draws. I’ve always been interested in writing ever since I was old enough to remember. My mother spent her hard earned money keeping me and my twinsy stocked in notebooks and pencils.

About the time I turned twenty-five or so, I discovered an author by the name of Kaye Gibbons. When I read her first book Ellen Foster, I fell in love with the way she wrote. So Southernly, so normal. I guess I can say normal because she wrote like I spoke. And that was what I wanted to do. I’d struggled to find a voice, but after reading her novel(s), I realized I had a voice. My Southern voice. And so that was how it all started. My novels are always based in the South. And you will always find a set (or two) of twins somewhere in the characters. Just a little tribute to my wonderful twinsy, Pam.

Your first novel, And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is, is available as a paperback, and your second, Whistle Creek, is available only on Kindle. Why did you decide to only use Kindle the second time around?

Well, just to be frank, I had, and continue to have, a bad experience with my publisher. I knew when I began the Whistle Creek series I didn’t want to go back to this particular publisher. In fact, I’m waiting out my contract duration to buy my rights back on And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is. Let me clarify: I believe other people may have a wonderful experience with this particular publisher; however, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.

Okay, so as I was saying, I decided when I began the Whistle Creek series that I wanted to try something different while I searched for another publisher. I researched many eBook publishers and found Kindle to be the easiest and offered a great percentage to the author/publisher. (By the way, Whistle Creek is also available on the Barnes & Nobles website for Nook users.) I will definitely use the eBook option with each book I finish because it’s easy, profitable, and it gets your name out there for others to see.

What are the advantages/disadvantages to also having print copies of your novel?

I have to say, even though I love the ease for readers when it comes to eBooks, there’s nothing like seeing your name and your words in print. I will always be a traditional book reader and writer. It just seems so difficult to get a book printed these days without the publisher demanding money for everything. Hence, the situation I’m in now with my first book.

The Advantages:  The advantages are more traditional reasons to me than anything else. Most collectors would prefer a novel, short story, documentary, or poem collection in print. That’s something to hand down to the kids and grandchildren. I have books that my Mom and my Grandmother bought for me when I was a child and I enjoyed reading with my children and now my grandchildren those same books. Those are moments that you can’t experience with an eReader, in my opinion. Another advantage would be I can donate copies to the local libraries. I haven’t quite figured out how to do this for an eBook.

The Disadvantages: The disadvantages of having print copies? Well, I personally can’t think of a reason other than it’s difficult getting books in print. With so many POD publishers out there, it’s like a shark feeding frenzy. I’m not saying they are all bad, but the ones I’ve reviewed didn’t get very high marks with other authors. And my own experience with the current publisher on And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is expects the authors to pay for EVERYTHING. And not at a very low rate, mind you. I believe an author should be paid and not expect to pay others to print their books. Again, just my opinion.

You live in Alabama and your novels are set in Alabama and Tennessee—do you consider yourself a Southern writer?

Yes, I do. I not only write in a Southern voice, but being from the South, I can honestly say I’m a “Southern Writer.” I love Southern slang. My husband, who was born in Ohio and raised by Northern parents (his father is actually from Scotland), didn’t have the privilege of learning the proper Southern slang and their meanings. I kid him because he can’t hear his father’s accent. It’s a Scottish/Northern accent with a “Y’all” at the end. Quite cute.

My Southern upbringing has a great deal of influence on my writing. I create characters based on my country grandparents and my city grandparents, my cousins, friends, siblings, and my parents. In the South we are exposed to many wonderful sights such as decked-out lawnmowers, four-wheelers, trailers (that would be mobile homes or manufactured homes to others), huge hair, and lots of camouflage (mostly on women in the off seasons). Really, I love living in the South. And even though I’ve dreamt of moving off after I retire, it will be to another Southern state such as Tennessee or Florida. I think the mountains or the beach would be a great place to draw in inspiration for my craft.

What has been the biggest challenge in becoming a professional writer?

Again, I hate to keep going back to the same answer, getting read. It’s difficult when an aspiring author pours her/his heart into their work, then studies how to write the perfect query letter only to send out the perfect query letter never to receive a reply. That’s very difficult and heartbreaking. But I won’t give up and neither should any of you out there. Keep writing, keep sending those perfect query letters, keep researching publishers, and keep publishing through eBook publishers. The bottom line is this: If don’t keep trying, I will never have a chance of succeeding.

What’s been the most rewarding part?

The most rewarding part of writing, for me, is having my friends come up to me and say they can’t wait to read my next book. Whistle Creek is the first book of the Whistle Creek series. This series will include two more books: Christmas By The Creek scheduled to be released December 2011 for Kindle and Nook and Whistle Creek Wedding scheduled to be released Spring 2012 for Kindle and Nook.

I love to hear readers’ feedback. In fact, I encourage them to contact me through email, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or just face to face. I welcome positive and negative feedback. One of my friends, a student from work, came bouncing into my office. I work at the local Community College as an Administrative Assistant for the Technical Division. Anyway, she informed me she checked my book And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is, from the local library and took it to the beach with her on an unexpected weekend getaway. She informed me she never, NEVER, reads Romance. However, she said she couldn’t put it down. She now is waiting for Whistle Creek to come out in paperback J.

What sort of publicity have you done for your novels—obviously, social networking, but any local readings? Has it been hard to do your own marketing?

Word of mouth is always a great publicity tool. Tell a friend, they tell a friend, they tell a friend and so forth. I have created business cards that have all my contact info, publishing info, and the titles of my books on them and I leave them at random places wherever I may go. I could one day be eating lunch out with the hubs and I leave a business card with the tip. That’s always a great trick.

I’ve also talked to the local library about participating in the April 2012 Local Authors Book Fair. I hope to be able to purchase enough And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is copies for that event. See, there’s a con for eBooks right there. How do you sell your eBook at a Book Fair? Well, there’s no guarantee sell, but I plan to promote Whistle Creek by handing out small postcards I created with the blurb, websites for downloading, and price per download. And another thought that crossed my mind while I was creating these postcards, if someone wants a signed copy of Whistle Creek or any of the upcoming Whistle Creek series books, I will sign the postcard. Gotta think outside the box.

The larger bookstores won’t allow me to have book signings or book readings from And That, My Dear, Is What Love Is, because the publisher is a POD and does not distribute to the larger bookstores. I’m still researching how to promote an eBook.

So far, it has been difficult to promote the books through other channels besides social networking. But I plan to be able to accomplish more sales once I have the series completed. And who knows? By then, I may even have a publisher on my side.

Who are some of your favorite Southern authors?

Kaye Gibbons, as I mentioned earlier. She writes lovely books such as Ellen Foster, A Virtuous Woman, and Charms for the Easy Life. Ms. Gibbons was born in Nash County, NC.

Another Southern author I’ve recently discovered doesn’t really write Southern novels per say. He is a Southern writer in the sense he lives in Huntsville, AL. Austin Boyd's Nobody's Child was a prize I won from a blogger bud's site. It is a Christian based novel about a topic that could be controversial to this genre. However, his writing is similar to Kaye Gibbons in the sense he writes with a Southern voice.

And I can't complete this interview without throwing out a piece of trivia. Linda Howard (Linda Howington) is from Alabama. In fact, she lives in Hokes Bluff, AL which is only a short fifteen to twenty minutes from my home. I have also had the privilege to work with her daughter-in-law, Donna Howington, at our local college. I hope to one day get the courage up to ask Donna if her mother-in-law might have the time to read one of my novels. But for now, the dream of her being from my area and breaking through the big house publishing business, keeps my dream of doing the very same thing alive.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eudora Welty and Southern writers

I found this interesting article about Eudora Welty in The New York Times. As well as talking about her life, her works, awards, etc... one particular paragraph caught my attention:

For decades she was pigeonholed by critics who placed her with William Faulkner, Katherine Anne Porter, Flannery O'Connor and Carson McCullers as a writer of the so-called Southern School. Her reputation as a regional and apolitical writer was often cited as a reason for her failure to win a Nobel Prize. But her work, like that of those other Southern writers, transcended region and possessed a universal relevance and appeal.

I've heard this said before -- that regional writers don't get as much respect as national (or global?) writers. What do you think? Does being classified as "Southern" hurt a writer? Does it limit his/her success? I'm thinking of NC authors Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle in particular -- being Southern doesn't seem to have hurt their careers. But what does everyone else think?