April 2, 2009

What I'm Doing, and How It Will Impact my Kids' What I Did on my Summer Vacation Essays

Some of you peeps have been (kindly) asking what BACKSEAT SAINTS is about and when it will be out…I JUST turned it in, so expect it in spring of next year, and I can’t tell you how GOOD it feels to know there are folks waiting for this book---I’m REPUGNANTLY proud of it.

It’s linked in a weird ways to GODS IN ALABAMA . Not a sequel, really. Not at all. In fact – it runs ALMOST concurrently with gods in Alabama. You do not have to have read gods to follow it, and indeed, it will be interesting to talk to readers who meet Rose first and THEN go back and read gods. Although, I have to warn you, if you have NOT read gods, I recently heard that you can go to hell for that. I think it’s in Leviticus. *earnest noddings*

If you have read gods, then your hair looks GREAT today and I LOVE your shoes---fantastic! – and you may recall there is a minor character in there, kind of a throw away called Rose Mae Lolley. She is a catalyst who shows up on the main character’s Chicago doorstep looking for her high school boyfriend. Her appearance breaks a long standing deal the narrator (Lena) has had with god, and starts that book down the road to Alabama.

But one night I woke up in the dark, small hours and I poked my husband until he cracked a bleary eye at me and then I hollered, “HONEY! HONEY! I just realized that everything Rose Mae Lolley says to Lena Fleet in GODS IN ALABAMA is a lie, and I KNOW NOW why Rose was REALLY looking for her old boyfriend.”
And my husband said, “…ummmm HI…It is THREE AM…”

So I left him alone, but I stayed awake and began tracing Rose Mae Lolley’s life, and I got more and more interested in her voice, her jumbo crazy, and her fascination with big guns and bad men – not necessarily in that order. BACKSEAT SAINTS is Rose’s story---and in it Lena Fleet is a catalyst in ROSE’S life. They ping off each other and head in wildly different but equally murderous directions. Let me say, it is a wild, dark ride, powered by a new kind of engine for me.

I write mainstream fiction with strong ties to Southern Gothic traditions. The stories grow out of the characters for me. But I LIKE a big old scoop of plot and I am not all that crazy about landscape. You will never catch me waxing on about the begonias, you know, not unless I've hidden a body in 'em. I tend to use the kind of engine found under the hood of the genre fiction I like to read. gods in Alabama and The Girl Who Stopped Swimming had murder mystery engines, Between, Georgia used the engine of a family drama. BACKSEAT SAINTS is the first time I have used a Thriller engine, and it was both hella fun and funna hellish. I’m not sure how to DEFINE funna hellish, but I know it when I am feeling it.

As for me, I am trying to get Rose out of my head by working on the new book, so I can come back and do the edits with a fresh, clean taste in my mouth and some distance. My theory is, you must love the book you are with, faithfully, so you can perform vicious, necessary surgeries on your former Beloved.

I DO like the Mississippi for drowning people in, as it can take a body VERY VERY far – no pesky dams like the Tennessee. If you are drowned in the Mississippi, it may wash you all the way to ALLIGATORS and they may only get a few bits of you back. Wheee! But I;ve also been hearing about the PEARL, a mysterious windy little river that heads down through MS and LA and dumps out in the Gulf (pronounced “The Guff” down where I grew up). Not a lot of population – a few little towns and hamlets scattered down the piece I’d be using, and there is room to slide my own little fictional town in there without the locals noticing.

I wonder how enthusiastic Scott and the kids will feel about taking a SUMMER VACATION to Bogalusa, home of the…something? Not sure what, yet. But I know I want to see it.

Posted by joshilyn at April 2, 2009 11:43 AM
Comments

Well now don't I just need to track down which one of my mother's friends she has lent my copy of gods to most recently so I can reacquaint my self with all the details of Rose.

Sounds like an excellent read (as if anyone would expect otherwise). Gonna be a long wait til next spring.

Posted by: Dani at April 2, 2009 12:10 PM

I've been lurking for a while, but wanted you to know that I just finished gods in Alabama and LOVED IT!

Can't wait to read all the others now...

Posted by: Darla at April 2, 2009 12:11 PM

Being drowned in the Mississippi may have the grandness element, but it also makes you somewhat boring. Bodies in the Mississippi are so common that my sister found one on our family vacation when she was 10. I vote the Pearl.

Posted by: Jessica at April 2, 2009 12:12 PM

Thanks much for summarizing the book! I would read just about anything you write, but I especially look forward to this. Rose was rather intriguing.

Posted by: CariAnne at April 2, 2009 12:23 PM

I can't wait! Backseat Saints will be my reward after finishing my NCLEX in January. (Also, hopefully, a licensure.)

Posted by: Joy at April 2, 2009 12:41 PM

Ya know. . .I always WONDERED if Rose went and found hers a self-help group. Sounds as if it was run by doctors Smith & Wesson. And next spring is ENTIRELY too long to wait.

AND if you are going to Bogalusa, do it in June for heaven's sake. . .'cause after that you will either mold or melt of come home covered in Kudzu from the wrong part of the south.

Posted by: Roxanne at April 2, 2009 1:30 PM

**Whine** I have to wait till next spring?! I only admire endurance and patience in other people. I myself get quite testy under those conditions.

Posted by: Lori Parker at April 2, 2009 1:43 PM

Can't wait to find out more about Rose! gods is my favorite of your 3 so far. Each has been a good read, but the characters in gods were the best!! Maybe it helps that I have crazy relatives in Alabama!!

Posted by: Priscilla at April 2, 2009 1:54 PM

I can't WAIT.

Posted by: ailo at April 2, 2009 1:54 PM

I am just so far behind - I haven't read gods yet - but my local library stocks it, and I've ordered the next available copy. By the way, your blog entry had me giggling and reading it aloud to anyone within earshot.

Posted by: Sandra Leigh at April 2, 2009 2:38 PM

Spring?! That is TOO long. As soon as you said "Rose" I was wishin' and hopin' that it was Rose Mae Lolley you were talking about. And color me most intrigued at the thriller aspect... my husband and I have written two thriller screenplays and it's a fun genre to play with, for sure. I love a good thriller.

I'm going to look at it this way -- next spring will give me time to re-read all of your books, but I'll save gods for last so Rose'll be fresh in my head. Yup, that's the ticket.

Posted by: Aimee at April 2, 2009 2:51 PM

Spring is too far away. *pout*
I love gods in Alabama. Mostly because I am an Alabama girl currently forced to live in North Carolina. Alabama was the whole reason I first read your book. Then I loved the story. I can't wait to read about Rose.
It's a little scary how much some of the characters in your stories remind me of my family members..

Posted by: Mandi at April 2, 2009 3:29 PM

The Mighty Pearl! Just what my dad recommends--very fast at flood stage. Bogalusa's not too bad, but, hey, I spend my summers in Natchez, Mississippi, so what do I know.

Posted by: dynagirl at April 2, 2009 3:47 PM

I can't wait to get my hands on Backseat Saints. I just finished gods in Alabama and loved loved loved it!

Posted by: Anna Marie at April 2, 2009 3:55 PM

http://www.bogalusa.org/

You've probably already been to this website,but, if not...

Posted by: Jennifer at April 2, 2009 4:19 PM

Southern Gothic? Now there's a term I haven't heard before. I really have to wait that long to get my fingers on the book? That means I have to buy OTHER books until then *flails*.

Posted by: Lia at April 2, 2009 4:26 PM

"...waxing on about begonias..."

*snort* You crack me up!

Can't wait for either book. HURRY UP!

Posted by: Jen at April 2, 2009 6:31 PM

My hair looks utterly awful, but I did read (and love) gods (and TGWSS and Between). And YOU are pretty and smart :D I am definitely looking forward to the new book! I'll start nagging my library about it (Because that is how my poor student self rolls) as soon as possible :D

Posted by: Heather at April 2, 2009 6:44 PM

I found another river for you to drown people in: The Wolf River. I thought of it, because it is where the singer Jeff Buckley drowned in the mid 90s. It may be a little bit too far north for you though...
"The Wolf River is a small alluvial stream in West Tennessee and northern Mississippi, whose confluence with the Mississippi River was the site of various Chickasaw, French, Spanish and American communities and forts that eventually became Memphis, Tennessee."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_River_(Tennessee)

Posted by: Andrea at April 2, 2009 8:25 PM

I _knew_ it was Rose! Yay!
I hope Crossroads shows up in the next one.

Posted by: JulieB at April 2, 2009 9:09 PM

Look at the Honey Island Swamp on Google Maps -- great image.

Posted by: JulieB at April 2, 2009 9:11 PM

honey, what is your crazy numbers running these days? are you telling me Rose Mae Lolley is in the new book? or another book to come soon?
I liked Rose Mae Lolley, (I'm sure I went to school with her.) It'd be nice to meet her again.
Honey, stop sniffing the pollen and get back to work on this book, I'm gettin' old here.

Posted by: Desi at April 2, 2009 10:38 PM

I finished proofing my galleys last night ... and was relieved that some of that magical "distance" of which you speak allowed me to like my book again.

:-)

Posted by: Lisa at April 2, 2009 10:54 PM

SINCE YOU MENTION trips with ulterior motives, I may be going into the CA gold country for our 25th. David is quite sanguine about it.

Posted by: Jill James at April 3, 2009 1:12 AM

Please say that Rose drives someone else up a tree! That is quite probably my favorite scene in any book read in the last five years (which set does in fact include both Between and TGWSS).

Honestly, girl, can't you write any faster? More, more, more!

Posted by: Kalynne Pudner at April 3, 2009 1:35 AM

I can't wait for Backseat Saints, but now I have Maisy's summer vacation essay to look forward to!
"We went to a river to see where Mama drowned someone. She's not in jail yet."

Posted by: liz at April 3, 2009 9:00 AM

Love, LOVE the scene with Lena treed. Makes me laugh and laugh.

Posted by: CJ at April 3, 2009 9:45 AM

Fabulous! I love it already! I can't wait!!!

Posted by: Trace at April 3, 2009 11:10 AM

Halfway through listening to the audiobook of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming. It has been making my commute so devilishly short (the commute is 1-1/2 hours one-way, although not every day) that I am sad to reach my destination.

Posted by: kmkat at April 3, 2009 11:58 AM

I am sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for your next book!!! I love you characters and your dialogue and your stories and... and.. I just love you!

Posted by: Nik at April 4, 2009 7:08 AM

I am pretty sure that my 6th grade class took a field trip down the Pearl River, and we, in fact, saw a dead body- a bloated and rotting cow!!! and a live scary thing- a water moccasin- while paddling. That was some field trip. I went to public school in Meridian, Mississippi at the time. By the way: I'm feeling really sad today (I lost a friend to domestic violence this week), and I feel like telling you that I clicked on my icon for your blog (I have a shortcut on the desktop)just hoping to smile, as your writing is always delicious. I am glad that you are using your gifts. Looking forward to reading your latest, Lisa

Posted by: Lisa at April 4, 2009 10:10 AM

A word about Bogalusa...you don't want to vacation there. Scott and the kidlings will kill you!! Stay at a B&B in either Folsom (horse country!!) or Covington. There are lots of excellent (and inexpensive) places to eat in Covington. Folsom is a one-stoplight town. You will be WAY more comfy down in either of those two towns than actually staying in Bogalusa...trust me. The drive up there is very nice...but stay south. In Covington there is a fabulous park along the Bogue Falaya river (not suitable for swimming, but nice to imagine dead bodies in...). An amazing wooden playground with lots of nooks and crannies for the kids and swings and a sandbox...leave the kids there while you explore north...really. : )

Posted by: Elise at April 4, 2009 10:27 AM

I loved gods in Alabama so hard. I can't wait for the new book. Between, Georgia is still reigning supreme in my heart, but I wouldn't mind it being dethroned for Backseat Saints. Oh SHRIMP!

Posted by: Amanda Hill of Shamelessly Sassy at April 5, 2009 1:57 AM

I finished Gods last week (and loved it), and Rose was one of my favorite characters. She definatly deserves her own book. Since it isn't coming out until next spring, I guess I have time to read your other books while I wait.

Posted by: Bronwynn at April 5, 2009 2:35 PM

I grew up water-skiing on the Pearl River, where it runs through Jackson, Mississippi and pours itself into a beautiful reservoir for sailing. But skiing up the Pearl was/is treacherous, but lots of fun. You can stop at the sand bars and cook out or just hang out between skiing runs. But you have to be alert while skiing the Pearl, due to lots of tree branches (sometimes huge ones) in the water. Too far north for gators, at least. Can't wait to read the next book!

Posted by: Susan Cushman at April 7, 2009 1:10 PM