Lady Banks' Commonplace Book is a newsletter for people interested in Southern literature, sponsored by booksellers who are members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) and featuring an overview of the literary news and events found on Authors 'Round the South.


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{On sniters, snollygosters and southern belles}

In which eight year olds discuss theology, Mr. Lewis Nordan is not able to tell the truth, a writer thinks heaven is a bookstore in Chapel Hill, and a lady never, ever leaves the house with wet hair.

April 8, 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!
Miss Julia to the Rescue

Defending Jacob

Stay Close

Guilty Wives

The Healing

Bringing Up Bébé

Killing Lincoln

The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook

Shiloh, 1862

That Woman

The American Heiress

The Great Gatsby

Iron House

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts


Citizens of London

The Hunger Pains: A Parody

The Warmth of Other Suns

Duke Sucks

Meet Me at the Moon

Max's Easter Surprise

Tickle Time!

Fake Mustache

Author Readings

Jim Harrison, author of The Palmetto and Its South Carolina Home, will be appearing at Burry Bookstore, 04/20/2012

Taylor M. Polites, author of The Rebel Wife, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, April 20 2012

Homer Hickam, author of Crater (Helium - 3) Novel, will be appearing at Alabama Booksmith, 4/20/2012

James Higdon, author of The Cornbread Mafia, will be appearing at Lincolns Loft Bookstore, 4/20/2012

Barnhill's is hosting the event Jamie Contreras - the Titanic - Lily's Story on 4/21/2012

Elizabeth Musser, author of The Swan House, will be appearing at Yawn's Books & More, 04/26/2012

Carol Cruise, author of Cross Walk: An Amazing Journey of Faith, will be appearing at Yawn's Books & More, 04/26/2012

Tennant McWilliams, author of Chaplain's Conflict: Good and Evil in a War Hospit, will be appearing at Alabama Booksmith, 4/27/2012

Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind than Home, will be appearing at Alabama Booksmith, 4/27/2012

Jo Humphries, author of Palmetto Portrait Project, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, April 27 2012

Fountain Bookstore is hosting the event Feast 2012: Festival of Word, Table, & Image on April 27 2012

Imran Ahmad, author of The Perfect Gentleman, will be appearing at A Cappella Books, May 2 2012

Carter Sickels, author of The Evening Hour, will be appearing at Charis Books & More, 05/03/2012

Biran Latell, author of Castro's Secrets: The CIA and Cuba's Intelligence , will be appearing at Books & Books Inc, May 4 2012

Jim Harrison, author of The Palmetto and Its South Carolina Home, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, May 4 2012

Barnhill's is hosting the event Peter Behrens - The O'Briens on 5/5/2012

S.J. Tindal, author of Nairobi and the Firefly, will be appearing at Charis Books & More, 05/06/2012

Mary Alice Monroe , author of Beach House Memories, will be appearing at Fiction Addiction, 05/08/2012

Jim Minick , author of The Blueberry Years, will be appearing at Fiction Addiction, 05/11/2012

Ron Rash, author of The Cove, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 5/11/2012

Mary Alice Monroe , author of Beach House Memories, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 5/14/2012

Oneal Smalls, author of Blessed Be the Ties that Bind, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 5/18/2012

Katherine Schlosser, author of The Herb Society of America's Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs, will be appearing at Old Salem Museums & Gardens, 05/19/2012

Mary Alice Monroe, author of Beach House Memories, will be appearing at Burry Bookstore, 05/20/2012

Wiley Cash, author of A Land More Kind Than Home, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 5/25/2012

Michel Stone, author of The Iguana Tree, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/1/2012

Jeff Shaara, author of A Blaze of Glory, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/8/2012

Dorothea Benton Frank, author of Porch Lights, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/12/2012

Maryann McFadden , author of The Book Lover, will be appearing at Burry Bookstore, 06/13/2012

Maryann McFadden , author of The Book Lover, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/15/2012

Mary Kay Andrews, author of Spring Fever, will be appearing at Alabama Booksmith, 6/19/2012

Karen White , author of Sea Change, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/22/2012

Mary Kay Andrews, author of Spring Fever, will be appearing at Scott's Bookstore, 06/27/2012

Angie LeClercq, author of A Grand Tour of Gardens, will be appearing at Litchfield Books, 6/29/2012

A Novel Experience is hosting the event Classics Group on December 24 2012

A Novel Experience is hosting the event Foreign Film Club on December 9 2012

Authors Round the South

Dearest readers,

By now, only her ladyship's readers who have spent the previous week with fuzzy pink earplugs stuffed into their ears have not heard the news that the Pulitzer committee was unable to select a winning title in the fiction category this year. They were quick to point out that this was not an unprecedented event, having occurred as much as eleven other times in the lifetime history of the prize. They hurried over the small fact that the last time this did happen was in thirty-five years ago, in 1977.  What books did not win in that year is unknown, since finalists only began to be announced in 1980. But among the books that did not win this year was a southern favorite: Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

Swamplandia!This rousing story of a family of alligator wrestlers in a dying Florida amusement park threatened by a competing park called The World of Darkness (perhaps the Pulitzer judges did not understand this was a novel in the realist school of narrative?) has been a regular sight on the southern indie bestseller list, both in hardcover and paperback. Which only goes to show that southerners know good books. Perhaps they should be the judges for next year's Pulitzer?

Happy reading! 

her ladyship, the editor

Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending April 8, 2012

Columbia, SC -April 17, 2012 - The Southern Indie Bestseller List, as brought to you by and SIBA, for the week ended Sunday, April 8, 2012. Based on reporting from the independent booksellers of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and

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. The Beginner's Goodbye
Anne Tyler, Knopf, $24.95, 9780307957276
2. Sacré Bleu
Christopher Moore, Morrow, $26.99, 9780061779749
3. The Shoemaker's Wife
Adriana Trigiani, Harper, $26.99, 9780061257094
4. The Paris Wife
Paula McLain, Ballantine, $25, 9780345521309
5. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection
Alexander McCall Smith, Pantheon, $24.95, 9780307378408
6. Miss Julia to the Rescue
Ann B. Ross, Viking Books, $25.95, 9780670023387
7. Defending Jacob
William Landay, Delacorte, $26, 9780385344227
8. Stay Close
Harlan Coben, Dutton, $27.95, 9780525952275
9. Beastly Things
Donna Leon, Atlantic Monthly Press, $25, 9780802120236
10. The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes, Knopf, $23.95, 9780307957122
11. Elegy for Eddie
Jacqueline Winspear, Harper, $25.99, 9780062049575
12. Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James, Knopf, $25.95, 9780307959850
13. The Expats
Chris Pavone, Crown, $26, 9780307956354
14. Guilty Wives
James Patterson, David Ellis, Little Brown, $27.99, 9780316097567
okra15. The Healing
Jonathan Odell, Nan A. Talese, $26, 9780385534673

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Drift
Rachel Maddow, Crown, $25, 9780307460981
2. Wild
Cheryl Strayed, Knopf, $25.95, 9780307592736
3. Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson, S&S, $35, 9781451648539
4. Quiet
Susan Cain, Crown, $26, 9780307352149
5. The Big Miss
Hank Haney, Crown Archetype, $26, 9780307985989
6. Unbroken
Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $27, 9781400064168
7. Goodnight iPad
Ann Droyd, Blue Rider, $14.95, 9780399158568
8. Bringing Up Bébé
Pamela Druckerman, Penguin Press, $25.95, 9781594203336
9. The Power of Habit
Charles Duhigg, Random House, $28, 9781400069286
10. Killing Lincoln
Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard, Holt, $28, 9780805093070
11. The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook
Cheryl Day, Griffith Day, Artisan, $24.95, 9781579654580
12. Some Assembly Required
Anne Lamott, Riverhead, $26.95, 9781594488412
13. Imagine
Jonah Lehrer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780547386072
14. Shiloh, 1862
Winston Groom, National Geographic Society, $30, 9781426208744
15. That Woman
Anne Sebba, St. Martin's, $27.99, 9781250002969

Trade Paperback Fiction

1. Fifty Shades of Grey
E.L. James, Vintage, $15.95, 9780345803481
2. The Weird Sisters
Eleanor Brown, Berkley, $15, 9780425244142
3. The Buddha in the Attic
Julie Otsuka, Anchor, $13.95, 9780307744425
4. The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht, Random House, $15, 9780385343848
5. The House at Tyneford
Natasha Solomons, Plume, $15, 9780452297647
6. The Help
Kathryn Stockett, Berkley, $16, 9780425245132
7. The American Heiress
Daisy Goodwin, St. Martin's, $14.99, 9780312658663
8. The Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh, Ballantine, $15, 9780345525550
9. The Dovekeepers
Alice Hoffman, Scribner, $16, 9781451617481
10. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $15.95, 9780307454560
11. Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese, Vintage, $15.95, 9780375714368
12. The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald, Scribner, $15, 9780743273565
13. The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein, Harper, $14.99, 9780061537967
14. Iron House
John Hart, St. Martin's Griffin, $14.99, 9781250007018
15. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Jonathan Safran Foer, Mariner, $14.95, 9780547735023

Trade Paperback Nonfiction

1. Bossypants
Tina Fey, Reagan Arthur Books, $15.99, 9780316056878
2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot, Broadway, $16, 9781400052189
3. Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey
The Countess of Carnarvon, Broadway, $15.99, 9780770435622
4. Heaven Is for Real
Todd Burpo, Thomas Nelson, $16.99, 9780849946158
5. Unlikely Friendships
Jennifer S. Holland, Workman, $13.95, 9780761159131
6. F in Exams
Richard Benson, Chronicle, $9.95, 9780811878319
7. Just Kids
Patti Smith, Ecco, $16, 9780060936228
8. In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
Neil White, Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780061351631
9. Moonwalking With Einstein
Joshua Foer, Penguin, $16, 9780143120537
10. Night
Elie Wiesel, FSG, $9.95, 9780374500016
11. Citizens of London
Lynne Olson, Random House, $17, 9780812979350
12. The Hunger Pains: A Parody
The Harvard Lampoon, Touchstone, $13.99, 9781451668209
13. The Warmth of Other Suns
Isabel Wilkerson, Vintage, $16.95, 9780679763888
14. Duke Sucks
Reed Tucker, Andy Bagwell, St. Martin's Griffin, $12.99, 9781250004635
15. Empire of the Summer Moon
S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, $16, 9781416591061

Mass Market

1. A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553593716
2. A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553573428
3. A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553582024
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307742537
5. The Girl Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307949509
6. Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card, Tor, $6.99, 9780812550702
7. The Affair
Lee Child, Dell, $9.99, 9780440246305
8. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307949486
9. To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee, Warner, $7.99, 9780446310789
10. A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780345535429

Children's Illustrated

1. The Lorax
Dr. Seuss, Random House, $14.95, 9780394823379
2. The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?
Mo Willems, Hyperion, $15.99, 9781423151289
3. Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site
Sherri Duskey Rinker, Tom Lichtenheld (Illus.), Chronicle, $16.99, 9780811877824
4. Duck & Goose, Here Comes the Easter Bunny!
Tad Hills, Schwartz & Wade, $6.99, 9780375872808
5. Press Here
Herve Tullet, Chronicle, $15.99, 9780811879545
6. Meet Me at the Moon
Gianna Marino, Viking, $16.99, 9780670013135
7. Max's Easter Surprise
Rosemary Wells, Grosset & Dunlap, $3.99, 9780448447834
8. Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet
Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (Illus.), Harper, $17.99, 9780061703812
9. Tickle Time!
Sandra Boynton, Workman, $6.95, 9780761168836
10. Pat the Bunny
Dorothy Kunhardt, Golden, $9.99, 9780307120007

Children's Interest

1. Chomp
Carl Hiaasen, Knopf, $16.99, 9780375868429
2. Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth
Jane O'Connor, Robin Preiss Glasser (Illus.), Harper, $9.99, 9780062082930
3. The Fault in Our Stars
John Green, Dutton, $17.99, 9780525478812
4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick, Scholastic, $24.99, 9780439813785
5. The Hunger Games Tribute Guide
Emily Seife, Scholastic, $7.99, 9780545457828
6. War Horse
Michael Morpurgo, Scholastic, $8.99, 9780545403351
7. The Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $12.95, 9780810989955
8. Divergent
Veronica Roth, Katherine Tegen Books, $9.99, 9780062024039
9. Fake Mustache
Tom Angleberger, Amulet, $13.95, 9781419701948
10. The Book Thief
Markus Zusak, Knopf, $12.99, 9780375842207

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. Big Nate Goes for Broke
Lincoln Peirce, Harper, $12.99, 9780061996610
5. The Last Hope (Warriors: Omen of the Stars #6)
Erin Hunter, Harper, $16.99, 9780061555275
6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $13.95, 9781419702235
7. The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $19.99, 9781423140597
8. The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book One):
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $9.99, 9781423113461
9. Abe Lincoln at Last! (Magic Tree House #47)
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Illus.), Random House, $12.99, 9780375868252
10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $13.95, 9780810970687


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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).

"McCarthy was actually born in Rhode Island, but went to the University of Tennessee, ”moved to a shack with no heat and running water in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains outside of Knoxville,” and now lives outside of Santa Fe. So while he’s not Southern by blood, he’s Southern by choice — and he backs it up with every gut-wrenching paragraph." 10 Contemporary Southern novelists

“For a long time I thought I was somehow defective for not being able to tell the truth — the ‘truth,’ I should say — without changing it, amplifying it, or romanticizing it,” Lewis Nordan dies at 72

He told us the job interview got a little tense when the Dean asked him to explain the two or three year gap in his resume. Buddy told us he said, "Well, I sure as hell wasn't sitting around the house drinking vodka." John Dufresne remembers Buddy Nordan

Joe served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a navigator, First Lieutenant. He was shot down by flack after his seventh bombing mission and crash-landed in Germany. He was a P.O.W. in Germany and liberated by General George S. Patton. Joe owned and operated the Morris Book Shop in Lexington from 1946-1978. Longtime KY bookseller Herbert Joseph Houlihan dies

A Land More Kind Than HomeEvery character in this novel "needs some kind of healing," New Southern Mysteries

For my mother, being Southern means handwritten thank-you notes, using a rhino horn’s worth of salt in every recipe, and spending a minimum of twenty minutes a day in front of her makeup mirror so she can examine her beauty in “office,” “outdoor,” and “evening” illumination. It also means never leaving the house with wet hair. Redefining the Southern Belle

7. sneetered (v.), Kentucky : If you’ve ever been hoodwinked, duped, swindled, fleeced or scammed, you done been sneetered. The noun version, sniter, refers to that treacherous person responsible for your unfortunate sneetering. Also see snollygoster, a shameless, unscrupulous person, especially a politician. 19 regional words everyone should know

That’s Land. In his right hand in the vinyl box set of 69 Love Songs, which you may recognize, and in his left hand is the advanced reader’s copy of my novel, which comes out in September. When we walked in the door, he said, “We were just talking about you.” I mean, come on, just shoot me already, because this is what heaven looks like, I’m pretty sure. Seriously, Quit It, We're Already Yours Forever

Dirty Rice"Gerald Duff's Native American hero, Gemar Batiste, is to baseball what Huck Finn was to the Mississippi River," Dirty Rice' invents hero for Evangeline League

" There's this perception that kids need to be taught something and, actually, I'm getting wound up now because I think that kids need the same things we need, which is a story. We have this thing as human beings - we have a profound need for story. That's what kids need." Q&A with Kate DiCamillo

The seventh annual Alabama Book Festival is from 9 a.m to 4 p.m. Saturday on a tented campground at the Old Alabama Town complex. Alabama Book Festival set for next weekend

Festival chairwoman Pam May told The Charleston Gazette ( ) that organizers selected Harris largely because of the popularity of "True Blood." WV book festival to feature Charlaine Harris

To Dance with the White DogWhat’s your favorite set-in-the-South novel? Boy, there’s any number of them. I guess I would have to say To Dance with the White Dog by Terry Kay. It’s a great Southern novel with everything a novel should have—wonderful characters, fantastic writing, a story that draws the reader in, and an ending that leaves you breathless. Paper Napkin Interview with Nicholas Sparks

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Lady Banks' {Book} Trailer Park

"When I first started writing I wrote very badly. I didn't know what I was doing, it was just chaotic writing. A teacher said to me, 'What do you want to write?' and I said, 'I don't know.' And he said, 'Well, that's not a good answer. You know, you're thirty-five years old. That's something that a college sophomore might say, but you've got to know the answer to that.' And so I thought, and said, 'I want to write about sex and death, and I want it to be funny.'" ~ Lewis Nordan

VideoThe Sharp Shooter Blues

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Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

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

Handling SinTheology according to eight year olds

At the age of eight, in the presence of his relations and from the episcopal hands of the bishop (who by the laying on of those hands that day had confirmed the boy's membership in the church), Raleigh Whittier Hayes, his knobbed knees shaking, received his first taste of the dry wafer and warm sherry known as the body and blood of Christ. "Yeeuck!" said his cousin Jimmy Clay. "I sure wouldn't want to drink Jesus's blood. You ought to come to our church. It's a lot lot bigger than this one. A lot! Hopabobalopalong Cassidy! And we don't drink blood like VAMPIRES! Whooooooo!"

Two decades were to pass before Raleigh Hayes took his cousin's advice to join the popular Baptists. At the time, he pulled primly on his new bow tie and replied with a precocious grasp of the Elizabethan compromise, "You don't have to believe it's really blood, dopehead, it's supposed to help you remember Jesus died for other people. You don't know anything."

"Yaga yaga minka linka chinka to you!"

--Michael Malone, in Handling Sin (Sourcebooks, 2004)

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One Great Bookstore

An Indie Bookstore you should know

ound to be Read Books

Bound to Be Read Books

481 Flat Shoals Ave SE # B
Atlanta, GA
(404) 522-0877
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Bound To Be Read Books is a fiercely independent neighborhood bookstore specializing in good quality used, new and discount books.  Conveniently located just 3 miles from downtown Atlanta in the funky-cool East Atlanta Village, Bound To Be Read Books strives to serve our community by combining the most interesting selection of real books anywhere with great service and low prices. 

A little history....

Bound To Be Read Books was most likely founded as a result of owner Jeff McCord’s midlife crisis.  There is no other explanation as to how a chance conversation in Canada with a Florida lawyer who owned a used bookstore in London, Ontario (it’s a long story) could inspire Jeff to venture into the wild world of retail bookselling.

Fixated on the possibilities of value and quality that a used book store could bring to the community, Jeff started in 2004 buying up large quantities of awesome books wherever he could find them. And his many friends also chipped in and often dropped off books on his front porch. The books soon filled the house.  So many books, in fact, that one day Jeff could no longer open the front door of his house because of all the boxes of books stacked in his living room.

Taking this as a sign of cosmic significance – and not wanting to live on the porch – Jeff rented a storage unit and began searching for a space to lease for a bookstore in the under-served neighborhoods of Southeast Atlanta.

A Little Farther Back…

In the summer of 1864, Flat Shoals Avenue was the site of Union Army trenches, dug to defend Union positions during the Battle and Siege of Atlanta.  On July 22, 1864, the Confederate Army left the heavily fortified Atlanta city limits and attacked the Union troops in a vain effort to drive them away from the city.  The line of attack stretched from the present East Atlanta Village – where an artillery emplacement was located – northward to beyond the Decatur rail line.  Some of the heaviest fighting was at nearby Bald Hill (Leggett’s Hill), which is now the interchange of I-20 and Moreland Avenue.  

Kona the Bookstore Cat

The tradition of bookstore cats goes back to the beginning of bookstores, when cats were kept in shops to “discourage” mice from damaging the books.  While most modern bookstores no longer have to deal with mice, the tradition of the bookstore cat has endured.

Our own Kona the Bookstore Cat is a rescue kitty, found as a days-old kitten in woods in the West End neighborhood.  Born of feral parents, she has settled nicely into her job as our Director of Public Relations, and greets customers most days with a sleepy yawn. She takes seriously her traditional role as guardian against pests, and is deadly against flies and the stray moth.

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Author 2 Author: Kimberly Brock

Kimberly Brock

The River WitchJoshilyn Jackson is one of Kimberly Brock's biggest fans. The River Witch, says Jackson of Brock's mystical debut novel, offers readers "a haunted landscape, authentically Southern... This is one debut that you absolutely should not miss." 

It's praise well-earned. A car wreck and miscarriage has broken Roslyn Byrne. The professional ballet dancer retreats to the Sea Isles off the coast of Georgia, not so much to heal as to hide. There she encounters the enchanting 10-year-old Damascus, and the two become bound in hope.

Kimberly Brock says what she fears most about writing is failing to transport the reader to that mystical place infused with inspiration and imagination. Readers of The River Witch will surely tell Brock to put her fears to rest.

Karen: What exactly is a River Witch?

Kimberly: Throughout history there have been tales of women who turned into mermaids or serpents or sirens. But I was far into the writing of The River Witch before I realized I’d incorporated such long-standing mythology into my contemporary work. In particular, after the book was finished, I discovered shocking similarities between The River Witch and the enduring myth of Melusine, a cursed maiden living on a lost island who took the shape of a serpent when bathing. This dual feminine nature – the idea of a beautiful woman with a terrible secret, an unfortunate lover, a woman with a wailing song, one who bridges the gap between known and unknown realms, who has lost her children and wanders in exile because her darker nature has been revealed - applies not only to the main character, Roslyn, but to all the women in the novel in various ways. Inadvertently, I crafted the same old myth, incorporating my own culture and environment of the Appalachian foothills and the Georgia coast. I love that! I think it stands as proof that our stories are timeless. But I leave it up to the reader to decide who they think the River Witch might be in this story, and what they think that means.

Karen: Do you consider yourself a superstitious person?

Kimberly: I am a deeply spiritual person, an intuitive person. I believe in a higher power and I wonder at the universe. I think all people and cultures are superstitious simply because our understanding of the world and our own nature are so limited. Superstition is a reflection of those limits and of our yearning for the divine.

Karen: Have you ever encountered anyone like Nonnie who gave you the heebie-jeebies?

Kimberly: I have certainly known women whose intuition was unsettling, women who listened to their dreams. Whether you attribute it to mysticism or the highly religious culture of the South, I’ve always embraced the concept of spirits and souls and stories of people who knew their loved ones were hurt or in danger before they got the call. There are stories in my own family about this kind of insight. We believe there is something beyond the physical world. Our grannies raise us on it. We plant by it. Our music and literature are haunted by this kind of prevailing otherworldly, long-suffering hope. Nonnie embodies all of those qualities.

Karen: How did the story of The River Witch first present itself to you?

Kimberly: I read this article about a couple of women who decided to open a pumpkin farm. They were holding a weekend celebration for the harvest. The pictures were gorgeous, with this long table laden with food. And everywhere, there was this beautiful, round, sumptuous fruit; these gourds and pumpkins, round and full and smooth. All these warm colors. I couldn’t stop looking at the pictures. I pulled the article out of the magazine and kept it, going back to it often. I couldn’t stop thinking how much I wanted to be there with those women. I could hear the music from the fiddle and the open-throat sound of the singers in the photographs. I could taste the fried chicken and grilled corn on the table. And it was all wrapped up in the shapes of their harvest, such a compelling illustration of the feminine divine, of sensuality and fertility and sustenance. I knew that I was going to tell a story about it somehow. In my mind, it was set in a very isolated place, a mountain or an island. I knew there was a river. I started looking into all of that and researching, learning what it takes to grow those monster pumpkins, and sketching scenes with a woman longing for her childhood home and sacred traditions wrapped up in music and stories and a bountiful table. This was Roslyn. But I couldn’t bring the ideas together cohesively.

Then one day, about a year later, I saw another report. This time they were showing people floating down a river inside giant pumpkins that had been rigged up as boats. I got excited. I saw the element of water, the continuity of cycles and the ecology of a Sea Island with its rivers and marshes and the hold-outs from a disappearing culture. What would it be like to crawl inside one of those giant pumpkins on the river? Would I feel free or like I was losing everything? And then I thought, if I felt the way I felt when I looked at the women in the magazine with all their pumpkins, what would I see if I was a little girl without a mother - or a mother without a child? And then, Damascus started talking to me. 

Karen: What was your biggest hurdle in writing this book?

Kimberly: Roslyn’s character was stoic and stubborn and she wouldn’t open up to me for a long time. She is a woman who has lived her life under such rigid control and forced denial that it was nearly impossible to discover any depth to her. Her experience was so limited in relation to her age. Her loss is so deep. Finding a way to make her authentic on the page and reveal her heart was a long struggle. I waited for her to arrive right up to the last page, I think.

Karen: You tackle the grievous matter of a miscarriage in The River Witch. What do you think are some of the most egregious misconceptions about miscarriages?

Kimberly: That they ever end, that the grief isn’t as potent or that the child isn’t known. That grief for a baby you didn’t raise is any less than that of losing a live child. We understand grief for a loved one who has lived a life and we can find ways to come to terms with that cycle, life followed by death. But when that cycle is broken, people don’t know how to approach that kind of disappointment. We don’t know how to comfort the bereaved. We belittle or discount a life that ended before or shortly after birth to try and make the scales balance with the way we expect life to operate. In The River Witch, this incongruity is also evident in the aftermath of the young death of Damascus’ mother, and the devastation of the Trezevant family. But in specific regard to miscarriage, I tried to examine the idea that life is cyclical in ways we may not even perceive, that the soul’s journey moves beyond our understanding.

Karen: When did you fall under the spell of writing?

Kimberly: I’ve always been a storyteller. Ask my family, who endured many hours of reenacted Disney films or impromptu plays. Ask my childhood friends and teachers, who swallowed tall tales and ghost stories whole on the playground and paid the price later, afraid to sleep in their beds. They believed I had descended from an angry Cherokee Indian Chief. They believed I was going blind like Helen Keller. I was in trouble all the time for inventing and embellishing. And then, around the age of five somebody gave me a crayon and that was that. That’s when I became a writer.  I love words, whether I’m writing or reader, or acting or teaching. I love the power language gives us to share our experiences, to dream, to search and learn and reach for what is beyond us and what is inside of us. Our words are the innate and sacred gift of being human.

Karen: What frightens you about writing?

Kimberly: That I’ll never be smart enough to write the book the way it comes to me through inspiration. That the idea is too big for me and I will fail it.

Karen: Which one of these three characters -- Damascus or Nonnie or Roslyn-- do you most identify with, and why?

Kimberly: I can’t say that I identify more strongly with any of the three over another. I guess there are specific things about each of them that I identify with as the author. With all of them, there is this longing for family, to understand them or to learn why they’ve been lost. In my own family, particularly in my grandparents’ generation, there were rifts that separated siblings and parents so I grew up knowing very little about them, if anything. It’s more common than people realize, I think. I often wonder what traditions and stories are lost when this happens, as Roslyn wonders about her mother’s family. Of course, sometimes people detach themselves with good reason. That’s reflected in Damascus’ relationship with her father. And with Nonnie, she has cherished and honored her mother’s legacy. She is carrying it forward even as the culture of the island evolves. I think I identify with that in the small ways I try to keep my family traditions and memories alive, through food and celebration and the retelling of stories. Damascus is just beginning to learn the value of this through Roslyn’s time on the island, and hopefully through her relationship with her Aunt Ivy.

Karen: Roslyn has a complicated relationship with her mother but an endearing one with Granny Byrne. Was there someone in your life that you modeled Granny after?

Kimberly: Mainly, Granny Byrne is based on an idea rather than a person, but she does bare resemblance to a mix of my own mother and grandmother. Even a little of my father is in there. I think Roslyn’s relationship to her grandmother is more of an idea than a reality, even for Roslyn. Had she been allowed to grow up in the cove with Granny Byrne, I wonder if her memories would be the same? A family is a complicated mess at best, and I think the way Roslyn and her mother struggle is much more true to life. But we all have our mentors and we idolize them, that’s what gives their influence strength in our lives.

Karen: What surprised you most in the writing of this book?

Kimberly: First, the discovery of the myths I mentioned above after the novel was complete.And also the personal mining involved in some of the scenes and the way I fought to avoid it. I wrote some of the novel four or five different ways and still couldn’t understand why it fell flat or felt inauthentic. I sold it, feeling that some of the scenes were lacking and I couldn’t put my finger on why. My editor, in her great wisdom, could pinpoint things I was overlooking and it would boggle my mind because immediately, I would know why I had skimmed the surface with one thing or another. The personal soft spots I was side-stepping made the scenes shallow. I had to be willing to open myself to perspectives or judgments that were uncomfortable, in order for the characters to fully evolve.

Karen: Do you have a writing mentor? How did that relationship develop?

Kimberly: I’ve been lucky beyond imagination to have so many accomplished and gracious authors coming alongside me at different stages on this journey. I’ve met other authors at writing conferences and through social media and been amazed that they’re almost always willing to lend their advice and a moment of encouragement to a fledgling. I am very aware of the precious value of their time and I think that is part of the beauty of the writing community, that we value one another and each other’s stories in a way that is noncompetitive and supportive.

Not only writers, but many others in the publishing industry including agents, editors and independent booksellers, have played the role of mentor and friend. The fact that they accepted a writer before publication and showed enthusiasm and continued interest in the work simply because they respected the process was an act of faith that carried me a long way. I try to find ways to pass that along every day.

Now I’m sticking my neck out to start visiting bookstores for signings and readings, I’m overwhelmed by the welcome attitude of booksellers and the generous wisdom and helping hand of veteran authors. This book would have never seen the light of day without them. 

Karen: Your single best writing advice?

Kimberly: Trusting the process. That’s kind of like trying to convince a woman she doesn’t really want an epidural because the natural process of labor is beautiful and rewarding, but seriously, it’s true. I keep trying to read something or watch some presentation that will give me the secret, but that’s just stupid. No one writer’s process is the same just like no two books are the same. There’s no use rushing it. I’m a global thinker and I have this broad idea, a kind of amorphous vision of a work and I want to get to the finished piece in this neat, controlled way that never happens. I have to force myself to relax in the bog of my imagination until something floats to the top that I can latch on to. And all that time, I’m convincing myself I’m not crazy. I have to know that I’m going to come full circle, and that I am an idiot kind of writer who is going to do it all the hard way. And then I have to hope I’m eventually going to be smart enough to write the book of my dreams, because when I’m writing I always know I’m not smart enough. I have to let the book teach me something first.

Karen: What are you working on now?

Kimberly: Another southern mystical piece involving an authentic but forgotten and discredited piece of American history about a woman whose voice has been lost for centuries and the man whose love made her story immortal.

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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.

racey A SpaineFeatured Author: Tracy A. Spaine from Raleigh, NC

Request Tracy for your book club!

Tracy is a Special Education teacher in Raleigh, North Carolina. Her first book is "Life Through the Eyes of a Hurricane Doggie Dog." She is originally from Tiffin Ohio and is a graduate of Bowling Green State University and The Ohio State University. Tracy began her writing in a blog in hopes of re-surfacing her written voice. As the right to be heard materialized, friends and family applauded those efforts: a seed was planted and blossomed. As a Special Education teacher for over 25 years Tracy likes to incorporate themes within her book for teachers to use in the classroom. The goal is to encourage children to enjoy reading and writing.

Life Through the Eyes of a Hurricane Doggie DogLife Through the Eyes of a Hurricane Doggie Dog

What is it that dogs see in us? Hurricane is not just any dog. His deep-felt empathy and compassion is evident in his life story, Life Through the Eyes of a Hurricane Doggie Dog. Seeing life through the eyes of this lovable and energetic golden retriever will enchant readers, as Hurricane embraces life and all its escapades.

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see the full list online here and find the authors touring in your area here

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

Susan Gregg Gilmore
Oxford, MS 6/15/2012-6/17/2012
Marietta, GA 8/22/2012-8/22/2012

Mark Hainds
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
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

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

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
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
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

Indomitable WillIndomitable Will by Mark K. Updegrove

Nearly fifty years after being sworn in as president of the United States in the wake of John F. Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Baines Johnson remains a largely misunderstood figure. His force of personal-ity, mastery of power and the political process, and boundless appetite for social reform made him one of the towering figures of his time. But he was one of the most protean and paradoxical of presidents as well. Because of his flawed nature and inherent contradictions, some claimed there were as many LBJs as there were people who knew him.

Intent on fulfilling the promise of America, Johnson launched a revolution in civil rights, federal aid to education, and health care for the elderly and indigent, and expanded immigration and environ-mental protection. A flurry of landmark laws--he would sign an unparalleled 207 during his five years in office, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Head Start, and Medicare--are testaments to the triumph of his will. His War on Poverty alone brought the U.S. poverty rate down from 20 percent to 12 percent, the biggest one-time drop in American history. As president, he was known for getting things done.

At the same time, Johnson's presidency--and the fulfillment of its own promise--was blighted by his escalation of an ill-fated war in Vietnam that tore at the fabric of America and saw the loss of 36,000 U.S. troops by the end of his term. 

Presidential historian Mark K. Updegrove offers an intimate portrait of the endlessly fascinating LBJ, his extraordinarily eventful presidency, and the turbulent times in which he served. We see Johnson in his many guises and dimensions: the virtuoso deal-maker using every inch of his six-foot-three-inch frame to intimidate his subjects, the relentless reformer willing to lose southern Democrats from his party for a generation in his pursuit of civil rights for all Americans, and the embattled commander in chief agonizing over the fate of his "boys" in Vietnam--including his two sons-in-law--yet steadfast in his determination to thwart Communist aggression through war, or an honorable peace.

Through original interviews and personal accounts from White House aides and Cabinet members, political allies and foes, and friends and family--from Robert McNamara to Barry Goldwa-ter, Lady Bird Johnson to Jacqueline Kennedy--as well as through Johnson's own candid reflections and historic White House telephone conversations, "Indomitable Will "reveals LBJ as never before. " For it is through firsthand narrative more than anything," writes Updegrove, "that Lyndon John-son--who teemed with vitality in his sixty-four years and remains enigmatic nearly four decades after his passing--comes to life."


Read more books on her ladyship's bookshelf


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