Monday, May 3, 2010

(79)On Folly Beach by Karen White

On Folly Beach by Karen White is going to be a must read for the beach this summer. Set on Folly Beach, South Carolina, Ms. White expertly weaves the past with the present in her new book about love lost and the pain of moving on.

Emmy is mourning the loss of her husband, killed in Afghanistan. At the insistence of her family, Emmy packs up her life in Indiana and buys a bookstore in Folly Beach. She finds herself in the midst of a Southern community steeped in tradition that reluctantly welcomes the outsider to their beach. While digging through ancient boxes of books, Emmy stumbles across a love story that was the center of a mystery involving members of the family that Emmy bought the bookstore from. Will Emmy be able to put the pieces together to solve the mystery while putting the pieces of her heart back together as well?

The South is rich with history that many of us Yankees will never be able to understand. Traveling between 2009 and 1942, Karen White does an amazing job of telling the story of what life was like in the South during WWII. I have been lucky enough to have Karen White, author of On Folly's Beach to write a Guest Post for this blog. So, please, welcome Karen White to my little corner of the Web.

North vs. South Round 2

Last Friday I received a phone call from my publicist in New York. My new book, ON FOLLY BEACH (set in Folly Beach, South Carolina), will be out on May 4th and my publisher is sending me on a book tour to publicize it. My publicist had been working on my travel schedule (all in the southeast) and was calling to go over my travel arrangements. That’s when I realized that one-hundred and forty-five years after the War Between the States, the north and south remain divided: divided by a common language.

My realization really began last year when my publisher was gearing up for my November 2009 book, THE GIRL ON LEGARE STREET. How many people in the offices of Penguin Publishing in New York City knew that it’s pronounced “Lagree?” Apparently no one until I stepped in to gently educate. It wouldn’t really matter to a sales person selling the book to an account in Poughkeepsie, but it would be in Charleston. Charlestonians are touchy like that, bless their hearts.

Then I received the copy edits for my November 2010 release, FALLING HOME. It’s set in the fictional small town of Walton, Georgia and is populated by the people I know best: southerners. And southerners don’t talk like northerners or really anybody else. My husband (born in Brooklyn) will sometimes request a translator when visiting my relatives in the Mississippi Delta. It really is that different.

Anyway, the copy editor assigned to my book had apparently never been further south than South Bronx and appeared confused by several of the colloquialisms and expressions used in the book and kept trying to make them grammatically correct. For instance, “that dog won’t hunt” became “it’s broken,” and “butter my butt and call me a biscuit” was replaced with a series of question marks. It took me a while to correct all of her “corrections,” bless her heart, but I think we both emerged relatively unscathed.

So now my publicist is trying to send me to places like Mobyle and St. Simmuns. It wasn’t until I sat and thought for a while that I figured I was heading to Mobile, Alabama and St. Simons, Georgia. I also had to let her know that even though she can probably drive from Manhattan to New Jersey and Connecticut in a few short hours, to get from my house in Atlanta to St Simons is a half day’s drive. The states are bigger down here. And no, I can’t sign in Dallas and Houston in the same afternoon unless I took the Concord. Yes, Texas really is that big.

No, I don’t have anything against Yankees. I married one, didn’t I? And my daughter was born in Pennsylvania, bless her heart. But there are fundamental differences between northerners and southerners—thank goodness! Homogenizing these great fifty states would be an awful thing. It’s the regional idiosyncrasies that make life interesting. My favorite television show was Newhart about a couple running a bed and breakfast in Vermont. That story couldn’t have worked if it had been set in Poughkeepsie or Atlanta. It was region-specific and locals enjoyed it for its familiarity and the rest of us enjoyed it because we wanted to go visit.

I write what I call “grit-lit”: southern women’s fiction, described so because all of my books are set in the south since that’s what I know. I receive lots of letters from readers and it’s gratifying to see that they’re from all over the country—from California to Vermont to Alaska and even from Canada and Tasmania.

I think it’s because people are interested in reading about people and places outside their own four walls and own experiences—just as I was mesmerized by the Hollywood version of Vermont in Newhart. Whether or not you can identify with the characters and their situations, you can still be amused and entertained by lives and settings that are foreign to your own.

I’m toying with the idea of billing the city of Charleston for a “finder’s fee” since I’ve had many readers tell me that they’ve traveled to Charleston and the Low country after reading my books. What a compliment! My next book will be set in New Orleans, a city like Charleston with its own brand of southern uniqueness. As a little caveat for those of you from above the Mason-Dixon line: if you plan to visit New Orleans, make sure you pronounce it “N’awlins” so you’re not spotted right off the bat as being one of those tourists with fanny packs and dark socks with sandals, bless their hearts.


Wingnut said...

"On Folly Beach" was one of the best books I've read in a while. And thanks to you Charlotte, I've been reading a lot of GOOD books! I loved how Ms. White drew Emmy to be a real person but didn't go down the path of making her a whiny one like so many writers do with their female characters these days. She was allowed to live in pain but at the same time was strong and resilient. Her progression through her pain felt true.

Charlotte's Web of Books said...

So very glad you enjoyed it!

Why I Read...

I remember the carefree summer days when I used to ride my bike to the public library to pick out new books. I would go almost daily to find books to read. I read to learn. I read to explore the world. I read to escape. I read because not reading is not an option.

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