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{On believing in storytelling}

Mr. Jefferson greets Mr. Lafayette, Mr. Sonny Brewer believes in books, Mr. John jeremiah Sullivan helps build a coffin, Ms. Lee Smith still quotes her mother, the Mellark family puts up no trespassing signs against tourists of the Hunger Games variety, and a writer gets an imaginary tongue-lashing from Ms. Flannery O'Connor, who calls her a whipper-snapper.

March 18, 2012

In This Issue

Special to the Southern List

(Books that appear on the Southern list, but not the national list)  Click on a book to purchase from a great indie bookstore!
Chasing Midnight

The Healing

Rules of Civility


Kill Shot

House I Loved

Killing Lincoln

When I Was a Child I Read Books

That Woman

Catherine the Great

In the Garden of Beasts

One Thousand Gifts

Jesus Calling

Sarah's Key

The Great Gatsby

The Sisters Brothers

Emily Alone

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

New Jim Crow

Every Day by the Sun


In the Sanctuary of Outcasts

Born to Run


Wreck This Journal

Citizens of London



Night Vision

Catcher in the Rye

One Cool Friend

Llama Llama Nighty-Night

Same Sun Here

Darth Paper Strikes Back

Glory Be

Author Readings

Johah Lehrer, author of Imagine: How Creativity Works at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (March 29 2012)

Amy Julia Becker, author of A Good and Perfect Gift at Regulator Bookshop in durham, NC  (March 29 2012)

Sam Dixon & Anne Edwards, author of Stayin Put at Page After Page in Elizabeth City, NC  (03/29/2012)

STARSMelinda Rainey Thompson, author of I've Had It Up To Here With Teenagers at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (03/29/2012)

Milenko Milanovic, author of Slow Dying: The Bosnian War Prison Camp at Visoko at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA  (March 29 2012)

Delilah Dawson, author of Wicked As They Come at FoxTale Book Shoppe in Woodstock, GA  (March 30 2012)

STARSKirk Neely, author of "Banjos, Barbecue and Boiled Peanuts" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (03/30/2012)

Anne-Marie O'Connor, author of The Lady in Gold at Books & Books Inc in Coral Gables, FL  (March 30 2012)

Okra Pick!STARSRose Senehi, author of Render Unto the Valley at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA  (March 30 2012)

Arthur Brooks, author of Adventures of Caterwaul the Cat: Feline Pie at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC  (March 31 2012)

Chaplain Steve Butler, author of We Do Remember You at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (March 31 2012)

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, author of The Acid Reflux Solution at Books & Books Inc in Coral Gables, FL  (March 31 2012)

Amber Dermont, author of The Starboard Sea at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (March 31 2012)

Terry Jones-Brady & Peggy Sijswerda, author of A Mosaic Heart & Still Life with Sierra at Page After Page in Elizabeth City, NC  (03/31/2012)

Winston Groom, author of Shiloh, 1862 at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/02/2012)

Lauren Groff, author of Arcadia at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA  (April 3 2012)

Ann B. Ross, author of Miss Julia to the Rescue at The Fountainhead Bookstore in Hendersonville, NC  (04/03/2012)

Peter Golden, author of Comeback Love at Books & Books Inc in Coral Gables, FL  (April 4 2012)

Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA  (April 4 2012)

Cheryl & Griffith Day, author of Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/05/2012)

Ann B. Ross, author of Miss Julia to the Rescue at Literary BookPost in Salisbury, NC  (April 5 2012)

Brad Crowther, author of "The Ninth Man" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (04/06/2012)

Okra Pick!STARSRose Senehi, author of Render Unto the Valley at Literary BookPost in Salisbury, NC  (April 7 2012)

Ron Rash, author of The Cove at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/10/2012)

Winston Groom, author of Shiloh, 1862 at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA  (April 11 2012)

Paul & Angela Knipple, author of The World in a Skillet at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/12/2012)

Robert A. Pastor, author of The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA  (April 12 2012)

Ann B. Ross, author of Miss Julia to the Rescue at That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, AR  (April 13 2012)

Charles Martin, author of Thunder and Rain at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (April 13 2012)

Philip Gerard, author of The Patron Saint of Dreams at Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC  (April 13 2012)

Mark K. Updegrove, author of Indomitable Will at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA  (April 17 2012)

Wendy Reed, author of Circling Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/18/2012)

Taylor M. Polites, author of The Rebel Wife at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (April 20 2012)

James Higdon, author of The Cornbread Mafia at Lincolns Loft Bookstore in Hodgenville, KY  (04/20/2012)

Homer Hickam, author of Crater (Helium - 3) Novel at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/20/2012)

Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind than Home at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/27/2012)

Tennant McWilliams, author of Chaplain's Conflict: Good and Evil in a War Hospit at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (04/27/2012)

Jo Humphries, author of Palmetto Portrait Project at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (April 27 2012)

Imran Ahmad, author of The Perfect Gentleman at A Cappella Books in Atlanta, GA  (May 2 2012)

Jim Harrison, author of The Palmetto and Its South Carolina Home at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (May 4 2012)

Biran Latell, author of Castro's Secrets: The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence at Books & Books Inc in Coral Gables, FL  (May 4 2012)

Ron Rash, author of The Cove at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (05/11/2012)

STARSMary Alice Monroe, author of Beach House Memories at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (05/14/2012)

Oneal Smalls, author of Blessed Be the Ties that Bind at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (05/18/2012)

Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind Than Home at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (05/25/2012)

Okra Pick!Michel Stone, author of The Iguana Tree at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/01/2012)

Jeff Shaara, author of A Blaze of Glory at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/08/2012)

Dorothea Benton Frank, author of Porch Lights at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/12/2012)

STARSMary Ann McFadden, author of The Book Lover at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/15/2012)

Mary Kay Andrews, author of Spring Fever at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (06/19/2012)

STARSKaren White, author of Sea Change at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/22/2012)

Angie LeClercq, author of A Grand Tour of Gardens at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (06/29/2012)

Authors Round the South

Dearest readers,

In this edition of her ladyship's commonplace book, you will find a note in the gossip section about the re-emergence of the literary publisher Macadam/Cage, and a link to an interview with its chief editor, the much-beloved Alabama son, Mr. Sonny Brewer. The interview is enlightening in the way it highlights the struggles and the sense of mission that drive small publishing houses, best encapsulated in Mr. Brewer's comment to his interviewer when he was asked why he does this:

"I believe in books," he responded "I believe in storytelling."

Thanks to this belief in the power of storytelling, one of the books Macadam/Cage is releasing this week is a powerful and moving story called The Silence of Mockingbirds by Karen Spears Zacharias. The author is someone familiar to each of you, as she frequently contributes interviews of other writers for her ladyship's newsletter. This week, she is one being asked the questions, as she discusses how she came to write the story of Karly Sheehan, a little girl who was murdered by her mother, a woman that the author used to call "friend."

Happy reading! 

her ladyship, the editor

Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending March 18, 2012

Columbia, SC -March 30, 2012 - The Southern Indie Bestseller List, as brought to you by IndieBound.org and SIBA, for the week ended Sunday, March 18, 2012. Based on reporting from the independent booksellers of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and IndieBound.org.

STARS - A STARS Author | Okra Pick! - A SIBA Okra Pick 
Titles in red are SIBA Book Award winners and finalists!
Printable versions: Hardcover | Paperback | Children.

Hardcover Fiction

1. Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James, Knopf, $25.95, 9780307959850
2. The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes, Knopf, $23.95, 9780307957122
3. Chasing Midnight
Randy Wayne White, Putnam, $25.95, 9780399158315
okra4. The Healing
Jonathan Odell, Nan A. Talese, $26, 9780385534673

5. The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385534635
6. The Paris Wife
Paula McLain, Ballantine, $25, 9780345521309
7. Rules of Civility
Amor Towles, Viking, $26.95, 9780670022694
8. The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides, FSG, $28, 9780374203054
9. What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
Nathan Englander, Knopf, $24.95, 9780307958709
10. Lone Wolf
Jodi Picoult, Atria, $28, 9781439102749
11. Watergate
Thomas Mallon, Pantheon, $26.95, 9780307378729
12. Kill Shot
Vince Flynn, Atria, $27.99, 9781416595205
13. The Expats
Chris Pavone, Crown, $26, 9780307956354
14. State of Wonder
Ann Patchett, Harper, $26.99, 9780062049803
15. The House I Loved
Tatiana De Rosnay, St. Martin's, $25.99, 9780312593308

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Killing Lincoln
Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard, Holt, $28, 9780805093070
2. Unbroken
Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $27, 9781400064168
3. Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson, S&S, $35, 9781451648539
4. When I Was a Child I Read Books
Marilynne Robinson, FSG, $24, 9780374298784
5. American Sniper
Chris Kyle, et al., Morrow, $26.99, 9780062082350
6. That Woman
Anne Sebba, St. Martin's, $27.99, 9781250002969
7. Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Katherine Boo, Random House, $27, 9781400067558
8. Catherine the Great
Robert K. Massie, Random House, $35, 9780679456728
9. Go the F**k to Sleep
Adam Mansbach, Ricardo Cortes (Illus.), Akashic, $14.95, 9781617750250
10. In the Garden of Beasts
Erik Larson, Crown, $26, 9780307408846
11. Quiet
Susan Cain, Crown, $26, 9780307352149
12. The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier
Ree Drummond, Morrow, $29.99, 9780061997181
13. One Thousand Gifts
Ann Voskamp, Zondervan, $16.99, 9780310321910
14. The End of Illness
David B. Agus, M.D., Free Press, $26, 9781451610178
15. Jesus Calling
Sarah Young, Integrity, $15.99, 9781591451884

Trade Paperback Fiction

1. The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht, Random House, $15, 9780385343848
2. The House at Tyneford
Natasha Solomons, Plume, $15, 9780452297647
3. The Weird Sisters
Eleanor Brown, Berkley, $15, 9780425244142
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $15.95, 9780307454560
5. Swamplandia!
Karen Russell, Vintage, $14.95, 9780307276681
6. Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese, Vintage, $15.95, 9780375714368
7. The Help
Kathryn Stockett, Berkley, $16, 9780425245132
8. Sarah's Key
Tatiana De Rosnay, St. Martin's, $13.99, 9781250004345
9. The Great Gatsby
F.Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, $15, 9780743273565
10. Doc
Mary Doria Russell, Ballantine, $15, 9780812980004
11. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party
Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor, $14.95, 9780307472984
12. Fifty Shades of Grey
E.L. James, Writer's Coffee Shop, $29.99, 9781612130286
13. The Sisters Brothers
Patrick DeWitt, Ecco, $14.99, 9780062041289
14. Emily, Alone
Stewart O'Nan, Penguin, $15, 9780143120490
15. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson, Random House, $15, 9780812981223

Trade Paperback Nonfiction

1. Bossypants
Tina Fey, Reagan Arthur Books, $15.99, 9780316056878
2. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
The Countess of Carnarvon, Broadway, $15.99, 9780770435622
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot, Broadway, $16, 9781400052189
4. Moonwalking With Einstein
Joshua Foer, Penguin, $16, 9780143120537
5. Unlikely Friendships
Jennifer S. Holland, Workman, $13.95, 9780761159131
6. The New Jim Crow
Michelle Alexander, The New Press, $19.95, 9781595586438
7. Heaven Is for Real
Todd Burpo, Thomas Nelson, $16.99, 9780849946158
8. Every Day by the Sun
Dean Faulkner Wells, Broadway, $15, 9780307591050
9. Cleopatra
Stacy Schiff, Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316001946
10. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
Neil White, Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780061351631
11. Born to Run
Christopher McDougall, Vintage, $15.95, 9780307279187
12. Life
Keith Richards, Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316034418
13. Wreck This Journal
Keri Smith, Perigee, $13.95, 9780399533464
14. Citizens of London
Lynne Olson, Random House, $17, 9780812979350
15. Night
Elie Wiesel, FSG, $9.95, 9780374500016

Mass Market

1. A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553573428
2. A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553593716
3. A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553582024
4. A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553579901
5. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307742537
6. Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card, Tor, $6.99, 9780812550702
7. To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, Warner, $7.99, 9780446310789
8. 1984
George Orwell, Signet, $9.99, 9780451524935
9. Night Vision
Randy Wayne White, Berkley, $9.99, 9780425245750
10. The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger, Warner, $6.99, 9780316769488

Children's Illustrated

1. The Lorax
Dr. Seuss, Random House, $14.95, 9780394823379
2. Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (Illus.), Harper, $8.99, 9780694003617
3. Pat the Bunny
Dorothy Kunhardt, Golden, $9.99, 9780307120007
4. Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet
Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (Illus.), Harper, $17.99, 9780061703812
5. Oh, the Places You'll Go!
Dr. Seuss, Random House, $17.99, 9780679805274
6. One Cool Friend
Toni Buzzeo, David Small (Illus.), Dial, $16.99, 9780803734135
7. Good Night, Gorilla
Peggy Rathmann, Putnam, $7.99, 9780399230035
8. I Am a Bunny
Ole Risom, Richard Scarry (Illus.), Golden, $5.99, 9780375827785
9. On the Night You Were Born
Nancy Tillman, Feiwel & Friends, $7.99, 9780312601553
10. Llama Llama Nighty-Night
Anna Dewdney, Viking, $5.99, 9780670013272

Children's Interest

1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick, Scholastic, $24.99, 9780439813785
2. The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $12.95, 9780810989955
okra3. Same Sun Here
Silas House, Neela Vaswani, Candlewick, $15.99, 9780763656843

4. Divergent
Veronica Roth, Katherine Tegen Books, $9.99, 9780062024039
5. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs, Quirk, $17.99, 9781594744761
6. Darth Paper Strikes Back
Tom Angleberger, Amulet, $12.95, 9781419700279
7. The Fault in Our Stars
John Green, Dutton, $17.99, 9780525478812
8. The Book Thief
Markus Zusak, Knopf, $12.99, 9780375842207
9. The Hunger Games Tribute Guide
Emily Seife, Scholastic, $7.99, 9780545457828
10. Glory Be
Augusta Scattergood, Scholastic, $16.99, 9780545331807

Children's Fiction Series Titles

1. The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $12.99, 9780545425117
2. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023498
3. Mockingjay (The Final Book of the Hunger Games)
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023511
4. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $13.95, 9781419702235
5. Out of Sight, Out of Time (Gallagher Girls, #5)
Ally Carter, Hyperion, $16.99, 9781423147947
6. The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $19.99, 9781423140597
7. Delirium
Lauren Oliver, Harper, $8.99, 9780061726835
8. Spell Bound (Hex Hall)
Rachel Hawkins, Hyperion, $17.99, 9781423121329
9. Leprechaun in Late Winter (Magic Tree House, #43)
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Illus.), Random House, $4.99, 9780375856518
10. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $7.99, 9781423134947


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Good Gossip

Literary News & Gossip passed along from the readers, the writers, the reviewers, the resellers, the riff raff, and dutifully repeated here by her ladyship (who falls into the last category).

With roots in this region, the festival is as historically Southern as magnolia trees and slow drawls. But, this year it is getting a makeover. Southern Literary Festival finds fresh focus in Nashville

Go Down, MosesOftentimes, there’s a deep and abiding communality in a bromance, something that binds the relationship. In this case, it’s the woods and the mythological hunt. Where would we Southerners be without the woods? Greatest Bromances in Southern Literature

I feel like "salvaging the bones" is what people do here, not only after big catastrophes but constantly and with the smaller tragedies in their lives. 'Salvage the Bones' by Jesmyn Ward

Former Nashville Public Library Director Donna Nicely has a new gig. But she didn’t stray too far from the role she played for 16 years. Library director joins staff at Parnassus Books

A quietly affable presence, Scruggs popularized a complex, three-fingered style of playing banjo that transformed the instrument, inspired nearly every banjo player who followed him. Earl Scruggs, bluegrass legend, dies

In the mid-1820s, a meeting at Monticello brought the hundreds who witnessed it to tears. The Marquis de Lafayette, the French aristocrat and military officer who became a hero of the American Revolution, descended to the lawn from a horse-drawn carriage as Thomas Jefferson, the main author of America’s revolutionary declaration, walked down the steps of Monticello.
“Ah, Jefferson,” Lafayette exclaimed.
“Ah, Lafayette,” Jefferson replied.
Book festival event uncovers little known facets of Charlottesville

“My mother would say, ‘She keeps on keeping on,’ ’’ Smith said cheerfully. “She’s got humor, spunk, passion and independence. She doesn’t always get it right, but, by God, she keeps trying.” Listen for Southern Refrains at Virginia Festival of the Book

I asked him directly why he was getting back to books in the face of slim profit margins and discouraging technological and cultural trends. “I believe in books,” he answered quietly but emphatically. “I believe in storytelling.” Macadam/Cage is back

Divided AmericaInterested in Southern politics? Tired of tacky comments about rednecks and superficial accounts of Dixie culture? Want to read some serious analysis of today's developments in this still peculiar but changing part of the country? Top 10 Books About Today's Southern Politics

It is common to fight against our influences, our literary parents, and I fought Flannery for a good long time. But in the quote above, she stopped me. She sat me down and schooled me. “Look it here, whipper-snapper,” she said to me, (in my imagination, where she wears glasses and points a finger and uses words like ‘whipper-snapper’), “Look it here, and listen to me. You may think you know what Southern fiction is because you’re from Georgia and you have a lot of cooking oil running through your veins and you’ve read a fair share of Faulkner and Welty and worked at the Margaret Mitchell Museum, but you won’t know the first thing until you stop being so smug and start writing. Start telling the truth. Stop trying to be Southern and just be.“ Fighting Flannery

It's true that the abandoned Henry River Mill Village, about 70 miles from Asheville in the small town of Hildebran, was home to the film's "District 12" Mellark family bakery and the Everdeens' shanty. But it's private property -- so just look as you're driving by -- and respect any "No Trespassing" signs. NC lures Hunger Games fans


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Lady Banks' {Book} Trailer Park

"I went around the country asking people about the two things you aren't supposed to talk to complete strangers about: God and money."

VideoWill Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?
Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide

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Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

Noteworthy poetry and prose from her ladyship's bedside reading stack.

PulpheadBuilding Mr. Lytle's coffin

When I was twenty years old, I became a kind of apprentice to a man named Andrew Lytle, whom pretty much no one apart from his negligibly less ancient sister, Polly,  had addressed except as Mister Lytle in at least a decade. She called him Brother. Or Brutha--I don't suppose either of them had ever voiced a terminal r. His two grown daughters did call him Daddy. Certainly I never felt even the most obscure impulse to call him Andrew or "old man" or any other familiarism, though he frequently gave me to know it would be all right if I were to call him mon vieux. He, for his part, called me boy, and beloved, once, in a letter, "Breath of My Nostrils." He was about to turn ninety-two when I moved into his basement, and he had not yet quite reached ninety-three when they buried him the next winter, in a coffin I had helped to make, a cedar coffin, because it would smell good, he said. I wasn't too helpful. I sat up a couple of nights in a freezing, starkly lit workshop rubbing beeswax into the boards. The other, older men--we were four altogether--absorbedly sawed and planed. They chiseled dovetail joints. My experience in woodworking hadn't gone past feeding planks through a band saw for shop class, and there'd be no time to redo anything I might botch, so I followed instructions and with rags cut from an undershirt worked coats of wax into the cedar until its ashen whorls glowed purple, as if with remembered life.

-- John Jeremiah Sullivan, Pulphead (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011)

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Author 2 Author


The Silence of MockingbirdsKaren Spears Zacharias is an author and investigative journalist who teaches First Amendment Rights at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington. In her upcoming book, A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder, Karen turns her investigative eye to the murder of three-year-old Karly Sheehan of Corvallis, Oregon. At one time, Karly’s mother, Sarah Sheehan, lived in the Zacharias home and was embraced as a daughter by the family. 

What happened to Karly? What was Sarah’s involvement? And how did Karly’s father, an Irish immigrant, end up as the state’s primary suspect in the abuse investigation? A Silence of Mockingbirds is not a simple love story – it is the troubling tale of a father’s love for the daughter he was unable to protect.

“Karen has given us Karly’s legacy, that of a small, bright spirit who loved and was loved. And yet destroyed by heedless caretakers. A must read. Compelling and heartbreaking,” Ann Rule said.

Q: How did you meet Sarah Brill Sheehan?

Karen: As a young teenager Sarah Brill was assigned to an in-school detention class that I was supervising. Sarah possessed the jaw-dropping beauty of Halle Berry, and the reckless nature of Casey Anthony. She embodied a certain dangerous vulnerability that I recognized, so I reached out to her in a mentoring way that teachers often do.

Q: How was it Sarah came to live with your family?

Karen: At age 19, Sarah got pregnant. She asked my husband and me to adopt that child. For a variety of reasons we didn’t, but after Sarah gave birth she came to live with us. We considered Sarah our “adopted daughter.”

Q: So Karly wasn’t her first child?

Karen: No. She adopted her first daughter out to someone I introduced to her. Karly was the daughter she had with David Sheehan. A native of Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland. David met Sarah in Corvallis, Oregon, home to Oregon State University. David was an engineer in town for training at Hewlitt-Packard’s Corvallis campus, when the two met. They married in a Reno rush, lived in Ireland for a short time, and eventually settled in Corvallis, where Karly was born in January 2002.

Q: What happened to Karly?

Karen: She was murdered on June 3, 2005.

Q: This book is true crime memoir. Can you discuss what that means?

Karen:  I worked the cop beat as a reporter in Oregon for many years, so I knew all too well the inherent dangers of writing true crime. Fortunately, I had the benefit of being a known commodity in my community. Our local police trusted me to get it right. I didn’t have that advantage with A Silence of Mockingbirds. Although I am an OSU alum, I knew no one in law-enforcement in Oregon’s Benton-County when I began my research. It took me years to gain the trust of some of the law enforcement and attorneys on this case.

I suppose it was natural for me to approach this story as a crime reporter – it’s what I knew. I had years of experience in courtrooms and courthouses. I spent three years writing and rewriting  A Silence of Mockingbirds as straight true crime. When I sent the manuscript to my agent, Alanna Ramirez at Trident Media in New York, she read it and then called me early the next day. Alanna told me that while she thought I had written a very compelling true crime story, there was a problem with the manuscript. “What interests me in this story is your relationship with this family and you’ve told us very little about that,” Alanna said. “You need to rewrite it as memoir.”

I knew the moment Alanna said it that she was right. It’s the same sort of knowing you get whenever you hear truth. You can almost feel your bones shift and right themselves, but the knowledge of it sickened me. I went straight to my office, where a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued. For six weeks, the then 435-page manuscript set on my desk staring at me like a flame-eyed demon. I had no idea, none at all, how I would deconstruct this book and start again, but I was determined to do so. Then one day I was cleaning up my desk (which is what writers do when they can’t figure out what to write) and I came across some of the letters I had written to Inmate Shawn Field, the man convicted of killing Karly Sheehan. It was one of those Ah-ha moments that Oprah speaks about so frequently. My Ah-ha moment came when I realized those letters were the opening for the true crime memoir, and I began to write. A year later, I had an entirely new manuscript.

Q: How does true crime differ from memoir?

Karen: Having authored three memoirs now, it’s not the differences between true crime and memoir I notice, but rather the many ways in which they are similar.

Are you familiar with The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrere?  It’s a deeply disturbing account of Jean-Claude Romand, a Frenchman who is serving a life sentence for killing his wife, his children, and his parents in 1993. Romand was France’s Bernie Madoff. For years he lived a fictionalized life, reportedly working as a medical researcher for the World Health Organization, while bilking friends and family of funds to support his lies and lifestyle.

Carrere, who struck up a relationship with Romand after he was imprisoned, weaves his own personal narrative into the murderous account. The book opens: "On the Saturday morning of January 9, 1993, while Jean-Claude Romand was killing his wife and children, I was with mine in a parent teacher meeting.”

It does seem that the most compelling true crime stories are those in which the writer finds themselves entangled in personal narrative. That has certainly been the case for the beloved crime writer Ann Rule whose long-career started with her relationship with serial-killer Ted Bundy.

I met and interviewed Ann during my reporting years. She had suggested at the time that I turn my eye toward writing true crime. When I told her about Karly’s death, Ann said, “This is your Ted Bundy story.” I’m humbled and overwhelmed that Ann Rule has given such a resounding endorsement to this work, calling it “a must read”.

In my opinion, the pitfall for any memoirist is the temptation to cling to one’s own mythology. Unfortunately, some memoirists write as if they are elementary school boys trying to out-wee each other. Such writing isn’t about honesty as much as it is about trying to crank up the shock value. But when the writing is about the discovery of truth, it matters not whether one is writing true crime or memoir or fiction.

Q: How long did the research and writing take?

Karen: I’ve been at work on this book from the moment I learned of Karly’s death in March, 2007.

Q: Is it true that you wrote the manuscript while serving as writer-in-residence at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Fairhope, Alabama?

Karen: Yes. I wrote the initial manuscript during my six-months at the Center in 2008. I am so appreciative to the communities of Fairhope and Point Clear, Alabama for the ways in which they embraced me. The people I met during my stay there have enriched my life with their friendships, and their own creative work.

I count it a blessing that after writing each day, I could walk down to the pier and watch those eye-popping sunsets over Mobile Bay. I needed a daily reminder that there is breathtaking beauty all around us. The good people of Fairhope and Point Clear provided the perfect antidote to the evil I was immersed in.

Q: Sonny Brewer, of Fairhope, acquired this book for San Francisco-based MacAdam/Cage, and then edited it. Was it difficult to have a good friend edit your work?

Karen: Not at all. It was an answer to prayer. Seriously.

In 2011, only a few short months after I’d finished rewriting the manuscript, Sonny told me that David Poindexter, owner of MacAdam/Cage had asked him take on the role of editor. MacAdam/Cage is known primarily for producing quality fiction, but Sonny and David took a risk with A Silence of Mockingbirds because they believe as I do that this book has the power to save the lives of children.

I have long adored and respected Sonny Brewer, as a man, as a writer, and as an editor. Only he and I will ever know how much better a book A Silence of Mockingbirds is because of his skillful editing, but, trust me, Sonny imbued this book with redemption. And David possesses an uncommon raw courage in this unstable publishing market. I am grateful to them both for believing in me and in this work.

Q: What did you discover about yourself in the writing of this book?

Karen: That too often I treat prayer like a butter-knife, instead of the powerful tool that it really can be. That might sound like an odd answer given this is a true crime memoir, but there was this pivotal moment in the story where I had the opportunity to pray for Sarah Sheehan, and I didn’t. The question that lingers with me even now is what might have happened if I had prayed. Could those prayers have changed the course of what would transpire?

Q: Does the book contain specific recommendations for individuals and society in preventing child abuse?

Karen: Yes. Absolutely. The book is being released in April to coincide with National Child Abuse Prevention month. I have partnered with national advocacy groups such as Childhelp (Childhelp.org), Child Abuse Intervention Centers, the National Children’s Alliance (NationalChildrensAlliance.org) and Fathers and Families (FathersandFamilies.org) to help raise awareness about our nation’s child abuse epidemic.

Flannery O’Connor said it best: “The truth doesn’t change based upon our ability to stomach it.”

Abused children don’t need us to feel sorry for them. They need us to act on their behalf – as family, as friends, as neighbors, as teachers, as doctors, as law enforcement officers, as reporters, as pastors, and as legislators. That is the only way we are going to curb this crisis. We cannot fix this world but we can change it.

But we can’t even do that until we educate ourselves on what we are failing to do and what we need to do better. A Silence of Mockingbirds provides practical insights into the subtle, and sometimes glaringly obvious things we overlook, the multitudes of ways in which abuse insinuates itself into our neighborhoods, and our communities, and our families. Everyone in Karly Sheehan’s life was college-educated. Many of them were trained professionals who were supposed to be able to identify and prevent child abuse. Yet, Karly’s abuse had been ongoing for months prior to her death. These people should have known better. Why didn’t they? 

Q: Will you write another true crime?

Karen: I write real stories about real people and about things that really matter. I try to use my voice as a writer to speak for those whose voices have been marginalized and/or muted. So while I don’t think of myself as a true crime writer, dead people often play heavily into my work, so I suppose it’s entirely possible.

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Read This!: Bookseller Staff Picks

From the April Indie Next List

The CoveThe Cove: A Novel, by Ron Rash (Ecco)
“Laurel Shelton and her brother live in a cove considered by many to be cursed. Crops fail, untimely deaths occur, and little light ever trickles down onto their plot of land. Their lives are largely isolated until Laurel discovers a mysterious and mute stranger playing the flute in the nearby woods. Set during the final months of WWI in the Appalachians of North Carolina, The Cove is a book that reveals the nature of humans to quickly ostracize those not like themselves and how easily people will demonize a group of people amidst the fever of war.” —Eon Alden, City Lights Bookstore, Sylva, NC

The ProfessionalsThe Professionals: A Novel, by Owen Laukkanen (Putnam Adult)
“This is a top-notch debut thriller with an unusual plot, terrific characters, and non-stop action. It has been a while since I started a book and couldn’t stop until it was finished. The Professionals is one of those books. The bad guys don’t seem too bad at first and the cops chasing them don’t seem to be too capable. That all changes by the end of the book when both the criminals and those enforcing the law show that they are true professionals — willing to sacrifice everything.” —Nancy McFarlane, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

The Coldest NightThe Coldest Night: A Novel of Love & War, by Robert Olmstead (Algonquin)
“In The Coldest Night, Olmstead tells the story of Henry Childs and his first love, his run from its failure into the brutality of the Korean War, and his scarred return home. Reading Olmstead is like eating a meal put together with a minimum number of ingredients that have lovingly been transformed into something amazing and truly satisfying. Olmstead is an author every lover of words should read, and this new novel is a great place to start.” —Lisa Sharp, Nightbird Books, Fayetteville, AR

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Okra Picks

Okra PicksGreat southern books, fresh off the vine! Picked for you with care by Southern Indie Booksellers


What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas

Chasing MidnightAs a teenager, Hannah Benson ran away from home in order to save herself.Now, twenty years later, the past comes calling and delivers life-changing news: her mother and sister have passed away, leaving Hannah the guardian of her fifteen-year-old niece.

Returning home to bitter memories and devastating secrets, Hannah must overcome her painful past to pave a future with her niece, the last best chance at a family for both of them. She begins to create a new, happier life with her niece and rekindles a relationship with Grady Steadman, one of the few people she's ever called a friend.

But she can't forget what she cannot forgive, or lay to rest those ghosts that will not die. Will love and trust--and the truth--give her the strength to stand her ground and fight for what she deserves?

more info | read first chapter


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Great Bookstores

An Indie Bookstore you should know

Undercover BooksUndercover Books in Christianstead, St. Croix, VI

Located just east of Christiansted, in Gallows Bay, across the street from the Post Office.

5030 Anchor Way, Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands, 00820. 
Phone: 340-719-1567
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our mission is to promote literacy in St. Croix and to offer an island cultural environment for the enjoyment and enrichment of the community.  Including contributing book reviews to The Crucian Trader each month, regular events, and our Undercover Book Club, which meets every six weeks. Next up: Blood, Bones & Butter.Blood, Bones & Butter

Living on an island, many of our customers are vacationing and carry e-readers, so Undercover is a big supporter of ebooks, which you can buy via our website. (And yes, even if your e-reader is a Kindle! We've posted instructions on how to read our ebooks on your Kindle Fire here.)

facebook | twitter | website |  events | staff picks | book club | ebooks

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STARS Authors on Tour

STARSWhat are "STARS" authors? These are authors listing in the Southern Traveling Authors Registration Service--a directory of authors who live in, or are traveling in the South and are interested in meeting with book clubs, civic groups, classrooms, and readers of all kinds. The STARS directory is brought to you by Southern Indie Booksellers, who want to connect readers with their favorite writers.

Karen Spears ZachariasFeatured Author: Karen Spears Zacharias
travels from Bend, OR

Request Karen for your book club or group!

website| facebook

"Karen Spears Zacharias is the rarest, most valuable kind of speaker and writer. Not only does she transport her audience to the real-life scenes she describes through vivid storytelling, but she also explains the technical details of creating nonfiction work in a clear way, so that fellow writers can follow those blueprints and begin to achieve better results as essayists, memoirists, journalists, and other chroniclers of events and lives. Thanks to Karen's guidance, her audience is able to convey what happened and what it all means". -- GEORGE WEINSTEIN, Program Chairman of the Atlanta Writers Club

Karen Spears Zacharias writes about real people and the issues that really matter to them.

Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Newsweek, National Public Radio, Relevant Magazine, Christianity Today, and CNN.

Karen teaches journalism at Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wa., and blogs at Patheos.com. A vocal advocate for veterans and military families, Karen’s father was killed-in-action, Vietnam, 1966.

While serving as the writer-in-residence at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts, Fairhope, Al., Karen wrote A Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder (MacAdam/Cage, April, 2012). It is the true crime tale of the murder of Karly Sheehan of Corvallis, Oregon.

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More STARS Authors:
see the full list online here and find the authors touring in your area here

Lynne Barrett
Sarasota, FL 4/7/2012-4/7/2012
Tampa, FL 4/16/2012-4/16/2012

Pamela Bauer Mueller
Walterboro, SC 4/27/2012-4/28/2012
Columbia, SC 5/18/2012-5/20/2012
Greenwood, SC 6/22/2012-6/23/2012
Jekyll Island, GA 11/9/2012-11/11/2012

Emily Cooper
Spartanburg, SC 4/13/2012-4/14/2012

Susan Gregg Gilmore
Little Rock, AR 4/12/2012-4/14/2012
Oxford, MS 6/15/2012-6/17/2012
Marietta, GA 8/22/2012-8/22/2012

Mark Hainds
Hattiesburg, MS 4/14/2012-4/14/2012
Montgomery, AL 4/20/2012-4/21/2012
Starkeville, MS 5/15/2012-5/17/2012
Waveland, MS 6/23/2012-6/23/2012
Denham Springs, LA 6/23/2012-6/23/2012

Sarah Frances Hardy
Hattiesburg, MS 4/11/2012-4/13/2012
Oxford, MS 4/14/2012-4/14/2012
Natchez, MS 4/19/2012-4/19/2012
Tupelo, MS 4/21/2012-4/21/2012
Grenada, MS 4/28/2012-4/28/2012
Greenwood, MS 5/5/2012-5/5/2012
Jackson, MS 5/11/2012-5/12/2012
Birmingham, AL 5/18/2012-5/18/2012
Athens, GA 5/19/2012-5/19/2012
Waynesville, NC 6/5/2012-6/5/2012
Hendersonville, NC 6/6/2012-6/6/2012
Woodstock, GA 6/23/2012-6/23/2012
Sylva, NC 6/24/2012-6/24/2012

sr johannes
Pensacola, FL 3/31/2012-4/7/2012

Alma Katsu
Nashville, TN 4/21/2012-4/22/2012
Asheville, NC 4/21/2012-4/22/2012
Raleigh, NC 4/22/2012-4/23/2012
Virginia Beach, VA 5/4/2012-5/5/2012

George Leibowitz
The Villages, FL 4/2/2012-4/7/2012

John Malik
Chapel Hill, NC 5/4/2012-5/7/2012

Nancy Naigle
Nashville, TN 8/23/2012-8/26/2012
Naples, FL 9/7/2012-9/9/2012

Tracy A. Spaine
Holly Springs, NC 4/10/2012-4/10/2012
Elizabeth City, NC 5/5/2012-5/7/2012

Dorothy St. James
Bethesda , VA 4/27/2012-4/29/2012
Columbia, SC 5/18/2012-5/20/2012

David Taylor
Richmond, VA 4/4/2012-4/4/2012
Baton Rouge, LA 10/26/2012-10/27/2012

Lori Verni-Fogarsi
Bracey, VA 5/1/2012-9/1/2012
Elizabeth City, NC 7/21/2012-7/22/2012

Tamra Wilson
Asheville, NC 5/17/2012-5/17/2012

Lady Banks' Bookshelf

 Blue Moon BayBlue Moon Bay by Lisa Wingate

Heather Hampton returns to Moses Lake, Texas, to help facilitate the sale of a family farm as part of a planned industrial plant that will provide the area with much-needed jobs. Heather's future fiance has brokered the deal, and Heather is in line to do her first large-scale architectural design--if the deal goes through.

But the currents of Moses Lake have a way of taking visitors on unexpected journeys. What was intended to be a quick trip suddenly morphs into Valentine's week--with Blaine Underhill, the handsome banker who just happens to be opposing Heather's project. Spending the holiday in an ex-funeral parlor seems like a nightmare, but Heather slowly finds herself being drawn into the area's history, hope, and heart.


Read more books on her ladyship's bookshelf

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