Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Mountains

Q: Am I a Southern Writer? A: Maybe.

honeysuckle-rose.jpgEvery morning I read three things. Politics, sports and anything about writing and literature. This morning I happened to see an excellent article in The New York Times called “What Is a Southern Writer, Anyway?” by Margaret Renkl. Renkl wondered if Southern writing could survive the modern age—”mass media and Walmart”. I had to agree, I wondered if she was right.

Growing up in the North Carolina mountains, I saw a lot of Southern tropes and missed out on others. We had snow when I was a girl, and even the summers were not unbearable. Fresh mountain breezes made the 80-plus degree heat quite bearable and no one had air conditioning. We sat on front porches in the evenings, but my mother didn’t allow smoking (or any kind of tobacco) or drinking. Ever. Ahead of her time, she’d witnessed the destructive effects of both.

Most of my childhood, we had one car which my father used to get out and back to work at the DuPont plant where he moved up from mechanic to shift supervisor. We rode bikes and walked to get places when he was gone until he bought my mother a little Pinto to take us to school in. I remember riding back from the grocery store on my bike, balancing a gallon of milk between the handlebars.

And yes, there was the ugly part. I wrote about that in my book Weeds and Flowers. Shades of prejudice, rumors of Klan meetings, memories of burning crosses and hangings. There were ugly weeds in our Southern flower garden, but we only saw hints of them.

Renkl concludes in her article that, “Maybe being a Southern writer is only a matter of loving a damaged and damaging place, of loving its flawed and beautiful people, so much that you have to stay there, observing and recording and believing, against all odds, that one day it will finally live up to the promise of its own good heart.”

If that be the case, then I am a Southern writer although I don’t always write Southern literature. Every single one of my books has some tie to North Carolina, though, and most of them take place at least partly in my state. However, of all my books, I would only consider two of them to actually be somewhat Southern literature. Weeds and Flowers, of course, but also—if a romance can be Southern literature—Tracks in the Sand. (For the record, Tracks in the Sand is free in the Smashwords Summer Sale with code SS100.)

So although I grew up in a little town that became a tourist attraction with a booming economy and now live in another small NC town, I see the faults of small southern living. I love my state and always have. The two years I lived in other states (Maryland and Virginia) were miserable times for me. North Carolina is home, and home, after all, is what both Southern and romance writers write about.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

What can I say about Tracks in the Sand? (Excerpt at end of a long and rambling post.)

Well, it’s out now, for one thing. My ninth novel. Wow. That number sort of floors me. When I wrote Secrets of the Lotus I actually worried that I might not have another one in me. For those counting, here are my novels, in (as best I can remember) order of release:

Secrets of the Lotus
Winter Solstice
Weeds and Flowers
Ducks in a Row
Where the Heart Lies
Close Up Magic
Escape Magic
Saturday Love
Tracks in the Sand

Tracks in the Sand is only the second novel I’ve set in my hometown, Brevard, N.C. (Weeds and Flowers is the other one;Winter Solstice comes close, but it’s in Asheville.) I can’t really say why that is, either. I love Brevard. I know Brevard better than any other place I’ve ever lived, I think, although it really has changed a lot since I lived there. The dime store is now an antique store. There are more restaurants near the town square than the entire TOWN used to be able to support (anybody remember Berry’s? I loved that place). The library I worked at from the age of 12 to 18 has moved into a much nicer, more modern building and the old library (previously the old post office) is, sadly, being converted into town offices.

But some things remain the same. The last time I was home, I took my kids to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” at the Coed Cinema, the same movie theater I saw “Mary Poppins” at for the first time. And the old hardware store (the one I modeled Sean Anderson’s after in Tracks in the Sand) was right there next door to the movie theater. And the county courthouse, which I also mentioned in my book still “perched on the corner of Broad and Main Streets like a large bird of prey watching the little mouse cars go past.” That’s not a very flattering description, and I’ve always loved that old building, but there really is something deliciously creepy about it.

Anyway, all this rambling is just to say, Tracks in the Sand is set in my hometown, a beautiful little place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. It’s the county seat of Transylvania County, has a population of around 7,500 and an elevation of 2,230 feet. It’s become a tourist destination but it’ll always be home to me.

Excerpt from Tracks in the Sand:

What would she do if I kissed her? Half the attraction was that he had no idea. She might kiss him back, she might hit him or bite him. She might kiss him back and then hit him. Whatever she did, he knew it would be unexpected because that was what Paige was.

“Well?” She raised her eyebrows. “What did you mean?” Her voice was so crisp and no-nonsense, he knew she had no idea what he was thinking.

And why was he thinking it now? But he knew the answer. Before she’d left ten years ago, he’d never been able to imagine his life without her in it and hadn’t been willing to do anything that might destroy what they had and scare her off in the process. But now he’d lived without her. He could do it again, if their relationship didn’t work out.

I don’t need her as a friend anymore. I want her as a woman.

“Sean? You still there?” Her expression had softened a little, concern overcoming some of her irritation.

“I meant that he never deserved you.” He took a deep breath and stepped toward her. “I meant that I can’t stand the thought of you sleeping with him. For revenge or anything else.”

Decision made, he reached for her, caught her by the arm and pulled her to him. Startled and off balance, she tipped forward into him, catching herself by grabbing his chest. Her expression when she looked up at him had changed from confused to uncertain.

“I never said I was going to sleep with him.” She sounded a little breathless…and like she was trying very hard not to sound breathless. The idea that she felt the attraction too and didn’t want him to know pleased him. And she didn’t try to push him away, either.

Maybe this would be easier than he’d thought. Probably not, though.

He slid his arms around her waist, pulling her closer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “You don’t have to say anything. I know what you’re thinking.”

“Do you?” Her gaze flickered—instinctively and unwillingly—to his lips and back to his eyes. “Do you know what I’m thinking right now?”

“Sure.” He grinned. “You’re thinking that if I don’t let go of you you’re going to knee me in the groin.”

“Then why are you still standing so close?” She tilted her chin, her voice determined.

“Because you’re not going to do it.” He deliberately stopped smiling, and, still keeping a firm grip on her waist with one arm, he lifted a hand to trace the softness of her lips with one finger. He knew her so well. Even after all these years, he could read the nuances of her expression, could see the battle between attraction and irritation. I’m probably the only one who can do that, too. The wonder of it filled him.

“Why would that be?” Her arms slid up a little to his shoulders. She could be about to knee him in the groin or move further into his embrace. Knowing her, she probably hadn’t made up her mind yet.

For answer, he moved his hand to brush back her hair, exposing the tender skin beneath her ear. Bending, he took a deep breath of her and kissed the spot, feeling her tremble in response. Because you feel the same way I do and you’re wondering why we haven’t done this a long time ago if it feels this good. He didn’t have to speak the words. When she slid her arms around his neck, moving her lips to his, he knew she knew.

2 Comments

Filed under Tracks in the Sand