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I write Southern Gothics and cozy mysteries set in southern Virginia. A Red, Red Rose and the sequel Beneath the Stones are published by The Wild Rose Press. Readers sometimes ask me, “What’s so unusual about the literature of the South? How is it different from other American lit?” As a born and bred Virginian, I have a pretty good grasp of the unique flavor of all things Southern. So, here are some reflections on our literary heritage.
Southern literature places heavy emphasis on the significance of family, a sense of community, the burdens/rewards religion brings, issues of racial tension, land and the promise it brings, a sense of social class and place and the use of Southern dialect.
But wait! There’s more!
Certain themes reappear because of the similar histories of the Southern states in regard to slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction. Our literature reflects a strong sense of PLACE. The South’s troubled history with racial issues continually appears in our writings.
Captain John Smith’s account of the founding of Jamestown 1610-20 was the very first piece of Southern lit. William Byrd kept a secret plantation diary in early 18th century—a critical document in early Southern history. After the Revolution cotton planting and slavery began to distinguish Southern society and culture from the rest of America. Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington were stand-out writers of this period.
1884, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was the most influential Southern novel of the 19th century, with its frank dealings with race and violence. Kate Chopin’s The Awakening was another early Southern novel set in Cajun communities of Louisiana. Her novel is one of the earliest to deal with women’s liberation from the pedestal men liked to place them on—the need for an identity apart from motherhood and housekeeping.
Folklore, Pentecostal tongues, politicians’ silvery words, tall tales of hunters and riverboat men, slave folklore, brags and songs and sayings that were part of Southern life all come to play in the South’s stories.
People forget their victories and virtues but never their defeats and sins. Thus, Southerners can be hypersensitive to the past, which included racial repression and loss of their own soil in the bloodiest war in American history. Original sin and lost causes cemented the culture.
Some feel the South’s literary success may be attributed to its reluctance to deny its past. It refused to run away from its history, traditions and reverence for form. Let’s face it—the South can’t get over the Civil War. Our compulsive remembrance tends not to reconstruct the actual time of the struggle, but rather to recount the consequent loss of Southern culture and the need for survival. Think: William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.
Gothic writers leverage details peculiar to the South—old plantations, Southern charm, and belief in supernatural spirits and ghosts, as well as the Gothic elements of off-kilter characters, “not right in the head,” with their broken bodies and souls. Gothics are a perfect read for Halloween.
I love writing about the South where, I say, long-held and hard-felt beliefs battle with modern ideas. It’s a culture ripe for conflict! Welcome to the South!
BLURB: BENEATH THE STONES:
Ashby Overton has everything to look forward to, including a promising writing career and her wedding at summer’s end. But, Overhome, her beloved historic family estate in Southern Virginia, is in financial peril and it is up to Ashby to find a solution.
Interfering with Ashby’s plans is a dark paranormal force that thwarts her every effort to save Overhome. Supernatural attacks emanate from an old stone cottage on the property rumored to be a slave overseer’s abode, prior to the Civil War. As the violence escalates, Ashby begins to fear for her life. Who is this angry spirit and why is his fury focused on Ashby?
Mystery, suspense and romance flourish against a backdrop of Civil War turmoil and ancestral strife--where immortality infiltrates the ancient air breathed by all who inhabit Overhome Estate.
Buy Link: Beneath the Stones: http://amzn.com/B00UF1YM6M
FaceBook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/Susan-Coryell-Author-149075331807592/timeline/
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