- Published: 02 June 2015 02 June 2015
SIBA – Inaugural Pick, One Book, One South for Fall 2014
While writing a historical novel, I spend hours alone, day after day, month after month, year after year, fashioning words and phrases to tell a story steeped in the past. The Southern past. Real life often raps insistently at the door and barges in, sure, but a majority of my time is spent, whether awake or asleep, carrying characters of my own creation in the deep recesses of my brain. I feel responsible for them as well as beholden to them. They continue to sharpen, clarify, grow, and assume their ultimate personas as time passes, growing stronger. And for this long gestation period, only a very few people know who these characters are, and even fewer the exact bond between them and me. My characters, and their stories, remain a huge secret awaiting a future unveiling.
When the big day finally arrives to introduce these characters to readers, I never know how they will be received. Are they sympathetic? Believable? Will readers care? Will they find the re-created world of the past interesting or relevant to the present? Did I do my job as an author sufficiently to bring them as alive for my readers as they have become for me?
My first historical novel was an Oprah pick, and because Cane River struck such a nerve with Ms. Winfrey, those characters found their way into countless homes and hearts, not only in the US, but all around the world. And as a first time novelist, I was both ecstatic and relieved that the unveiling was so impactful. The Oprah brand is strong. My second novel, Red River, was also embraced, not to the extent that Oprah enabled, but enough to make me believe that those characters had also found their place.
The Oprah experience was fourteen years ago. For me, a long time passes between books, and I’m never sure if my audience will stay with me. These are impatient times. A core set of my readers live in or are from the South. If you're reading these words, that probably includes you, and you can certainly understand what a unique and wonderful audience that is.
And so it is not understatement to say that when I heard the news that the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) chose my third book, Citizens Creek, to be their inaugural One Book, One South pick for the Fall of 2014, I was thrilled. I had a moment of doing the happy dance in my house (thankfully alone!), followed by a moment of quiet tears. What an honor to be the first selection! I got to go to the SIBA Fall Discovery show in Norfolk, Virginia, where I met other wonderful southern authors and chat with the force of nature that is Wanda Jewell, SIBA’s Executive Director, before presenting to a roomful of enthusiastic booksellers. Validation such as this before the official launch of a new work is nourishment for an author’s soul.
I wish I could hug each and every one of the independent booksellers who supported Citizens Creek, and hand sold it to their customers. Independents keep many of us authors creatively alive and their trusting customers aware of a range of books that might otherwise go undetected.
From Oprah pick to Okra pick – now that’s the ultimate good feeling. Thank you SIBA.