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 the curls on top of ice cream cones}

In which her ladyship attempts to give up sarcasm--and fails utterly, Ms. Ann Hite gets a job at a Dairy Queen, but can't make the required curly cues on the cones and so is let go, someone's mama attends the funerals of people she doesn't know, and it does not require a European film maker to make a movie out of a Faulkner novel.

December 18, 2011

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!
 Red Mist  Zero Day  Locked On  Gregory Maguire  The Best of Me

 The Time of Our Lives  Arguably  Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible  A Dog's Purpose  Crooked Letter Crooked Letter  The Lake of Dreams  How to Live  Outliers Dance First, Think Later  Catcher in the Rye  
Port Mortuary

The Reversal 
The Night Before Christmas
 The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Man

Llama Llama Holiday Drama

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Author Readings

Allyson Lewis, author of 7 Minute Solution at That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, AR  (December 28 2011)

Jeff Ashton, author of PROSECUTING CASEY ANTHONY at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (December 29 2011)

Deborah Niemann, author of Homegrown and Handmade at That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, AR  (January 2 2012)

Augusta Scattergood, author of Glory be at Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL  (January 5 2012)

Marissa Meyer, author of Cinder, Book One of the Lunar Chronicles at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (January 6 2012)

Dianne de Las Casas, author of DINOSAUR MARDI GRAS at Octavia Books in New Orleans, LA  (January 7 2012)

CHARLES DODD WHITE, author of SINNERS OF SANCTION COUNTY at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 7 2012)

Doc Hendly, author of BRINGING CLEAN WATER TO THE WORLD at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 8 2012)

Jeannie Whayne, author of Delta Empire at That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, AR  (January 8 2012)

Kevin Anderson, author of Sisterhood of Dune at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (January 8 2012)

Dr. Gary Small, author of The Alzeheimer's Prevention Program at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (January 9 2012)

Kris Radish, author of Tuesday Night Miracles at Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL  (January 10 2012)

Thomas Frank, author of Pity the Billionaire: The Unlikely Resurgence of t at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 10 2012)

Dr Cynthia Bulik, author of The Woman in the Mirror: How to Stop Confusing Wha at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (January 11 2012)

Dr Gary Small, author of THE ALZHEIMER'S PREVENTION PROGRAM at Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL  (January 12 2012)

Randy Pierce, author of Pain Unforgiven at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL  (January 12 2012)

Ellis Avery, author of The Last Nude at Charis Books & More in Atlanta, GA  (January 12 2012)

Carl Ernst, author of How to Read the Qur'an: A New Guide with Select T at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 12 2012)

Suzanne Raether, author of Judaculla at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC  (January 13 2012)

Jim Newton, author of brings us Eisenhower: The White House Years at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 13 2012)

JOHN SNYDER, author of HILL OF BEANS at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 13 2012)

Sean Keefer, author of "The Trust" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (01/13/2012)

John Green, author of The Fault In Our Stars at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 14 2012)

James Stevens, author of Listening to Van Gogh at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (January 14 2012)

Art Ramsay, author of The Tibetan Wisdom Code at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC  (January 14 2012)

Emery Lee, author of Fortune's Son at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC  (January 14 2012)

Jan Bozarth, author of The Fairy Godmother Academy #5: Sumi's Book at Octavia Books in New Orleans, LA  (January 14 2012)

David Joy, author of Growing Gills: A Fly Fisherman's Journey at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 14 2012)

starsKelly Starling Lyons, author of Ellen's Broom at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 15 2012)

John M. Barry, author of ROGER WILLIAMS AND THE CREATION OF THE AMERICAN SO at Octavia Books in New Orleans, LA  (January 16 2012)

Gin Phillips, author of Come In and Cover me at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL  (January 17 2012)

Avrum Weiss, author of Change Happens: When to Try Harder and When to Sto at Charis Books & More in Atlanta, GA  (January 17 2012)

Stephen Hren, author of Tales from the Sustainable Underground: A Wild Jou at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 18 2012)

Jeffrey Brantley, author of True Belonging: Mindful Practices to Help You Over at Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh, NC  (January 19 2012)

Brad Taylor, author of All Necessary Force at Inkwood Books in Tampa, FL  (January 19 2012)

Michael Revere, author of War, Madness and Love at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC  (January 19 2012)

Kami Kinard, author of The Boy Project at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC  (January 20 2012)

Beth Webb Hart, author of Sunrise on the Battery at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC  (January 20 2012)

Kim Edwards, author of "Lake of Dreams" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (01/20/2012)

Layli Phillips Maparyan, author of The Womanist Idea at Charis Books & More in Atlanta, GA  (January 20 2012)

starsSheila Ingle, author of Courageous Kate, Daughter of the American Revoluti at Park Road Books in Charlotte, NC  (January 21 2012)

Robin Whitley, author of In a Southern Closet at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, NC  (January 21 2012)

JAY RUBENSTEIN, author of ARMIES OF HEAVEN at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 21 2012)

Patricka Daley-Pledger, author of Everyday Focus at Wild Iris Books, Inc. in Gainesville, FL  (January 21 2012)

Miranda Kinneally, author of Catching Jordan at Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA  (January 21 2012)

Kim Edwards, author of The Lake of Dreams at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC  (January 21 2012)

Jubal Tiner, author of Press 53 Spotlight Anthology at Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC  (January 22 2012)

Helen Davis, author of Our Mark On This Land at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (January 22 2012)

Andy Andrews, author of How Do You Kill 11 MILLION PEOPLE? at Page & Palette in Fairhope, AL  (January 23 2012)

Alan Shapiro, author of Broadway Baby at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (January 24 2012)

Stewart O'Nan, author of The Odds: A Love Story at Alabama Booksmith in Birmingham, AL  (01/24/2012)

Alex Beard, author of Crocodile Tears at That Bookstore in Blytheville in Blytheville, AR  (January 25 2012)

Gabrielle Hamilton, author of Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education o at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (January 25 2012)

Carolyn McKinstry, author of While The World Watched at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (January 26 2012)

JESSICA SPEART, author of "Winged Obsession" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (01/27/2012)

Nancy Wengel Wengel, author of The Right Triangle at Yawn's Books & More in Canton, GA  (January 28 2012)

Stephen Hren, author of Tales from the Sustainable Underground: A Wild Jou at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (February 2 2012)

Mary Foster, author of Charleston: A Historic Walking Tour at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (02/03/2012)

starsRose Senehi, author of Render Unto the Valley at The Fountainhead Bookstore in Hendersonville, NC  (February 3 2012)

Patricia Schultz, author of 1000 Places To See Before You Die at Eagle Eye Book Shop in Atlanta, GA  (February 4 2012)

Beth Holmgren, author of Starring Madame Modjeska: On Tour in Poland and Am at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (February 8 2012)

starsRose Senehi, author of "Render Unto the Valley" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (02/10/2012)

starsMindy Friddle, author of Secret Keepers at Hub City Bookshop in Spartanburg, SC  (February 16 2012)

starsNicole Seitz, author of "Beyond Molasses Creek" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (02/17/2012)

Lisa See, author of Dreams of Joy at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC  (February 24 2012)

Margaret Baroody, author of "The Unexpected Visitor" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (02/24/2012)

Sara Arnold and Steve Hoffius, author of "The Life and Art of Alfred Hutty: Woodstock to Ch at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (03/02/2012)

John Lane, author of "My Paddle to the Sea" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (03/09/2012)

Stephanie McAfee, author of "Diary of a Mad Fat Girl" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (03/16/2012)

Jodi Picoult, author of Lone Wolf at Fiction Addiction in Greenville, SC  (March 17 2012)

Bill Noel, author of "Ghost:: A Folly Beach Mystery" at Litchfield Books in Pawleys Island, SC  (03/23/2012)

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

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

Karla Telega, author of Box of Rocks at Swift Books in Orangeburg, SC  (December 24 2012)

Authors Round the South

Dearest readers,

This is the time of year when one tends to take stock of one's life, review past accomplishments (and failures) and set plans and goals for the future.  Looking back at her resolutions for 2011, written with such optimism last January, her ladyship discovers that her chief goal for the year was to read "more." More deeply. More often. With more attention.  More willingness to be challenged.

Even for a book lover, such a resolution proved surprisingly difficult to keep. There are, after all, many times when one wishes to read not to be challenged, but simply to find comfort and pleasure.

Still, as resolutions go it was among the more successful that her ladyship has made for herself. (Oh, the dreadful year that she resolved not to be sarcastic. Her ladyship's fortitude lasted not two hours, but then, it was an election year.)  She has, therefore, decided to make it again. This year, her ladyship resolves to read more:

the libraryMore poetry.
More new authors.
More debut novels.
More books recommended by her friends.
More of the books already upon her ladyship's own library shelves.
More often while sitting in her garden.
More often while sitting up in bed.

It looks to be a lovely year.

Ho, ho, ho and happy, happy reading! 

her ladyship, the editor

Southern Indie Bestsellers

For the week ending Sunday, December 4, 2011

Columbia, SC -December 15, 2011 - The Southern Indie Bestseller List, as brought to you by and SIBA, for the week ended Sunday, December 4, 2011. 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. Death Comes to Pemberley
P.D. James, Knopf, $25.95, 9780307959850
2. 11/22/63
Stephen King, Scribner, $35, 9781451627282
3. The Litigators
John Grisham, Doubleday, $28.95, 9780385535137
4. Red Mist
Patricia Cornwell, Putnam, $27.95, 9780399158025
5. The Drop
Michael Connelly, Little Brown, $27.99, 9780316069410
6. The Art of Fielding
Chad Harbach, Little Brown, $25.99, 9780316126694
7. The Sense of an Ending
Julian Barnes, Knopf, $23.95, 9780307957122
8. State of Wonder
Ann Patchett, Harper, $26.99, 9780062049803
9. The Marriage Plot
Jeffrey Eugenides, FSG, $28, 9780374203054
10. 1Q84
Haruki Murakami, Knopf, $30.50, 9780307593313
11. The Night Circus
Erin Morgenstern, Doubleday, $26.95, 9780385534635
12. V Is for Vengeance
Sue Grafton, Marian Wood Books/Putnam, $27.95, 9780399157868
13. Zero Day
David Baldacci, Grand Central, $27.99, 9780446573016
14. Locked On
Tom Clancy, Mark Greaney, Putnam, $28.95, 9780399157318
15. The Best of Me
Nicholas Sparks, Grand Central, $25.99, 9780446547659

Hardcover Nonfiction

1. Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson, S&S, $35, 9781451648539
2. Killing Lincoln
Bill O'Reilly, Martin Dugard, Holt, $28, 9780805093070
3. Unbroken
Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $27, 9781400064168
4. Jack Kennedy
Chris Matthews, S&S, $27.50, 9781451635089
5. Catherine the Great
Robert K. Massie, Random House, $35, 9780679456728
6. Thinking, Fast and Slow
Daniel Kahneman, FSG, $30, 9780374275631
7. Rin Tin Tin
Susan Orlean, S&S, $26.99, 9781439190135
8. Then Again
Diane Keaton, Random House, $26, 9781400068784
9. A History of the World in 100 Objects
Neil MacGregor, Viking, $45, 9780670022700
10. The Swerve
Stephen J. Greenblatt, Norton, $26.95, 9780393064476
11. Boomerang
Michael Lewis, Norton, $25.95, 9780393081817
12. The Time of Our Lives
Tom Brokaw, Random House, $26, 9781400064588
13. In the Garden of Beasts
Erik Larson, Crown, $26, 9780307408846
14. Arguably
Christopher Hitchens, Twelve, $30, 9781455502776
15. Paula Deen's Southern Cooking Bible
Paula Deen, S&S, $29.99, 9781416564072

Trade Paperback Fiction

1. The Tiger's Wife
Téa Obreht, Random House, $15, 9780385343848
2. The Help
Kathryn Stockett, Berkley, $16, 9780425245132
3. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk
David Sedaris, Ian Falconer (Illus.), Back Bay, $13.99, 9780316038409
4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $15.95, 9780307949493
5. Cutting for Stone
Abraham Verghese, Vintage, $15.95, 9780375714368
6. Swamplandia!
Karen Russell, Vintage, $14.95, 9780307276681
7. A Visit From the Goon Squad
Jennifer Egan, Anchor, $14.95, 9780307477477
8. A Dog's Purpose
W. Bruce Cameron, Forge, $12.99, 9780765330345
9. Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Helen Simonson, Random House, $15, 9780812981223
10. The Art of Racing in the Rain
Garth Stein, Harper, $14.99, 9780061537967
11. Room
Emma Donoghue, Back Bay, $14.99, 9780316098328
12. Freedom
Jonathan Franzen, Picador, $16, 9780312576462
13. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin, Harper Perennial, $14.99, 9780060594671

14. The Best American Short Stories 2011
Geraldine Brooks, Heidi Pitlor (Eds.), Mariner, $14.95, 9780547242163
15. The Lake of Dreams
Kim Edwards, Penguin, $16, 9780143120360

Trade Paperback Nonfiction

1. Unlikely Friendships
Jennifer S. Holland, Workman, $13.95, 9780761159131
2. The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2012
Sarah Janssen (Ed.), World Almanac, $12.99, 9781600571480
3. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Skloot, Broadway, $16, 9781400052189
4. Heaven Is for Real
Todd Burpo, Thomas Nelson, $16.99, 9780849946158
5. The Old Farmer's Almanac 2012
Old Farmer's Almanac, $6.95, 9781571985446
6. Holidays on Ice
David Sedaris, Back Bay, $10, 9780316078917
7. Awkward Family Pet Photos
Mike Bender, Doug Chernack, Three Rivers, $15, 9780307888129
8. Born to Run
Christopher McDougall, Vintage, $15.95, 9780307279187
9. At Home
Bill Bryson, Anchor, $15.95, 9780767919395
10. F in Exams
Richard Benson, Chronicle, $9.95, 9780811878319
11. Cleopatra
Stacy Schiff, Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316001946
12. How to Live
Sarah Bakewell, Other Press, $16.95, 9781590514832
13. Outliers
Malcolm Gladwell, Back Bay, $16.99, 9780316017930
14. Empire of the Summer Moon
S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, $16, 9781416591061
15. Dance First. Think Later.
Kathryn Petras, Ross Petras, Workman, $8.95, 9780761161707

Mass Market

1. A Game of Thrones
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553593716
2. A Feast for Crows
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553582024
3. A Storm of Swords
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553573428
4. The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, 4th Edition
Merriam-Webster, $7.50, 9780877799290
5. A Clash of Kings
George R.R. Martin, Bantam, $8.99, 9780553579901
6. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307949486
7. The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger, Warner, $6.99, 9780316769488
8. The Girl Who Played With Fire
Stieg Larsson, Vintage, $9.99, 9780307949509
9. Ender's Game
Orson Scott Card, Tor, $6.99, 9780812550702
10. Port Mortuary
Patricia D. Cornwell, Berkley, $9.99, 9780425243602

Children's Illustrated

1. I Want My Hat Back
Jon Klassen, Candlewick, $15.99, 9780763655983
2. The Elf on the Shelf
Carol Abersoldt, Coe Steinwart (Illus.), CCA and B, $20, 9780976990703
3. The Night Before Christmas
Jan Brett, Putnam, $20, 9780399256707
4. Goodnight Moon
Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd (Illus.), Harper, $8.99, 9780694003617
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss, Random House, $15, 9780394800790
6. The Polar Express
Chris Van Allsburg, Houghton Mifflin, $18.95, 9780395389492
7. The Night Before Christmas
Clement C. Moore, Corinne Malvern (Illus.), Golden, $3.99, 9780375863592
8. The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man
Michael Chabon, Jake Parker (Illus.), Balzer & Bray/Harper, $17.99, 9780061914621
9. Llama Llama Holiday Drama
Anna Dewdney, Viking, $17.99, 9780670011612
10. The Wizard of Oz: A Scanimation Book
Rufus Butler Seder (Illus.), Workman, $14.95, 9780761163732

Children's Interest

1. Every Thing On It
Shel Silverstein, Harper, $19.99, 9780061998164
2. Wonderstruck
Brian Selznick, Scholastic, $29.99, 9780545027892
3. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Brian Selznick, Scholastic, $24.99, 9780439813785
4. War Horse
Michael Morpurgo, Scholastic, $8.99, 9780545403351
5. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell the Tales
Chris Van Allsburg, et al., Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24.99, 9780547548104
6. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Barbara Robinson, Laura Cornell (Illus.), Harper, $16.99, 9780060890742
7. Wildwood
Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis (Illus.), Balzer & Bray/Harper, $17.99, 9780062024688
8. LEGO Star Wars Character Encyclopedia
Hannah Dolan, DK Publishing, $18.99, 9780756686970
9. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs, Quirk, $17.99, 9781594744761
10. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Barbara Robinson, HarperTrophy, $5.99, 9780064402750

Children's Fiction Series Titles

1. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Cabin Fever
Jeff Kinney, Amulet, $13.95, 9781419702235
2. The Hunger Games
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $8.99, 9780439023528
3. Mockingjay (The Final Book of the Hunger Games)
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023511
4. Inheritance (Inheritance Cycle, Book 4)
Christopher Paolini, Knopf, $27.99, 9780375856112
5. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)
Suzanne Collins, Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023498
6. The Son of Neptune (The Heroes of Olympus, Book Two)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $19.99, 9781423140597
7. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $7.99, 9781423134947
8. The Lost Hero (The Heroes of Olympus, Book One)
Rick Riordan, Hyperion, $18.99, 9781423113393
9. Ivy and Bean
Annie Barrows, Sophie Blackall, Chronicle, $5.99, 9780811849098
10. Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House #1)
Mary Pope Osborne, Sal Murdocca (Illus.), Random House, $3.99, 9780679824114

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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).

"Hating the crowded, flat eastern seaboard, they followed the valleys south-southwest down through Pennsylvania, until they came to a place where the ridges rise high above the valleys, where it looks and feels right. Like home." Sharyn McCrumb on writing the ballad novels

"he sees enormous potential to the writer's work on the big or small screen, thanks to "the flash forwards, the flashbacks, the layering, in the many things happening at the same time. We keep asking ourselves, 'Which European filmmaker is going to do this?" On turning William Faulkner books into cinema

"My grandfather was truly a moonshiner, and I do know how to make moonshine. I also have peculiar relatives! In the past, my aunt did go to the funerals of people she didn’t know, and my brother did build his house inside a garage." Interview with Robin Jordan

“To me it’s one of the most perfect short stories ever written. The reason is that the language is so potent in the story. It’s very Shakespearian in sound sometimes. The words beg to be an oral experience.” TSC takes a step away from the Bard

All the King's Men"I read Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. It was my favorite book then because it was written in this beautiful poetic language but it moved too. It was highly poetic and my way into writing really was through the sound and rhythm of it, at first. But it told a great, highly dramatic, beautifully hard-boiled and elegiac story, too." Interview with Brad Watson

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Lady Banks' Commonplace Book

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

Bitter AcoustisAny New World Will Do

we no longer care about the sunken barns
along the highway: sodden planked and walls pulped

with termites, carpenter ants. Atilt.

Woodpiles soft with rot. Moss encroaching.
Fields of stubbed trees. Silos holding.

This is no pastoral age,
no age of agricultural imagination.

Though we still like to eat.
How we eat adn eat and eat.

Cows chew the scenery. They hardly twitch
at flies. Scene of stasis, black and white.

Stop film unspools on the cinema floor.
Dust mores and dwindling light. The highway
parallels, does not intersect.

We don't remember why we cared about anything

that tethered us to a plow or a sky so never-ending
that it made us feel too small. How there's no one

tilling the soil; the farmer's at the bank. Mail Pouch
wavers on the far walls: a mirage in a desert

no one wants to cross, or lose ourselves in,
where we grow so close to dying

that we forget how to want for water.

--Sharon Fagan McDermott, from Bitter Acoustic (Jacar Press, 2011)

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ARTS on Facebook

Author 2 Author: Ann Hite

Ann HiteAnyone who has ever been to the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Trade Show knows it’s not just about the books. It’s about the people and the laughter and those moments when those in attendance get to swap their own stories with one another. During a late night reading in Charleston, Karen Spears Zacharias had the pleasure of visiting with debut novelist Ann Hite, author of Ghost On Black Mountain. Join with them as these two Georgia girls continue the discussion they began that night:

KAREN: Where did you grow up?

ANN: I began life—sounds like a bad novel—in Macon, Georgia. My father was in the Air Force. We moved to Newport News, Virginia when I was nine months old and stayed until I was four. Then we were off to Germany, close to Frankfurt. I was ten when I came home to live in Atlanta with my grandmother and got to know my eccentric extended family. Every Sunday we got in Granny’s baby blue Oldsmobile and headed for rural north Georgia, where we visited my great aunts and the crowd of grown cousins. If I was quiet, they would forget I was sitting in the corner and tell the good stories about haints, murder, and conjuring spells. Black Mountain was born during these visits. 

KAREN: What was your first job?

ANN: At sixteen I went to work for the local Dairy Queen at the front counter, where I failed grandly. I had a hard time making the little signature curl on the ice cream cone, so I was soon asked to leave. My first ‘real’ job was working for BP Oil, where I was a Technical Specialist. 

KAREN: Did you spend that job thinking up stories?

ANN: I worked for several engineers, who left me to my own means. Those means were writing short stories in between projects. What would become the Black Mountain stories were written in this manner.

Ghost on Black MountainKAREN: What intimidates you about writing?

ANN: The first time I sit down with an idea. I always worry is this wasted time? Have I lost my talent? Am I some kind of fool to think I can write? I wish I could say this has changed with publication of my novel, but it hasn’t. I still have these questions rapid fire through my mind before I dig in and let the words come. What thrills you? I’m a blank page writer. This means I rarely know what will happen to my characters before it shows up on the page. I love finding out the story as if I’m the reader. This keeps me coming back to my desk each day. But it also makes for more rewrites. It’s a good thing I love the process of rewriting.

KAREN: Ghost On Black Mountain is very character-driven with an ensemble of evocative female voices. Was building an ensemble intentional from the outset or did this happen organically?

ANN: It began as a short story, so when I decided to turn it into a novel, I saw Nellie as the one and only voice. Then Rose marched through my head with the story about her mother attempting to sell her. I had to allow her on the page. Iona showed up in one of my dreams. What can I say? When Gallery offered me a book deal, Ghost had three female voices. Then my wonderful editor made two comments: “I’d like to hear from Nellie’s mother (Josie Clay)." "I can’t get enough of Shelly Parker." Josie and Shelly were written into the book only a bit before publication. And Ta Da the ensemble came together.

KAREN: Nellie Pritchard, the teenager attracted to Trouble in a pick-up truck, embodies every mother’s worst fear for her daughter, doesn’t she?

ANN: I love that description “Trouble in a pick-up truck”! Yes Nellie’s attraction is every mother’s nightmare. I have four daughters. Three are grown. I addressed the fears every mother has for her daughters. My fears stemmed not from my daughters’ actions but from my own choices as a teenager.  And those are stories best left for other books.

KAREN: You do such a great job of capturing the stark loneliness that many young women feel when they realize they’ve traded the comforts of a mother’s love for that an angry, unpredictable man. How difficult was it for you emotionally to write Nellie’s story?

ANN: Nellie came quite naturally to me, as if she were an old friend I hadn’t seen in years. Her choices were especially tough for me to accept. On some days I just refused to write another sentence because I was afraid of her next move. My husband will tell you he feels he knows Nellie because of my angst at the dinner table. I spent a lot of time crawling in Nellie’s head. My exploration of Nellie took me to places and times in my own life that were painful and lonely. But how many women haven’t chosen the wrong guys in their lives? I think this is what makes Nellie so forgivable. But there were times I wondered what readers would think when they met Nellie on the page. After all, she’s my child and I love her warts and all.

KAREN: Nellie spends a lot of time alone, which seems a risky move from a plot standpoint. It was just Nellie and the ghosts, most of the time. Some less adventuresome souls might argue that watching a woman come unhinged is about as tedious as watching paint dry. Yet, brave writer that you are, you were able to make a quiet afternoon of splitting wood completely unnerving. How’d you do that?

ANN: Crawling into Nellie’s head could be a very unnerving place. I knew that if readers were going to love and understand Nellie’s choices, or at the very least forgive her, they had to see her internal life. This was a risk, a big one from a writer attempting to get her first book published, but I once read something John Gardner said that has stayed with me. It went something like this: You have to know the rules to break the rules. And then once you break them, the work becomes art. I don’t sit down to create art—I think that’s something that organically evolves—but I always sit down to weave the best story in me. This accounts for a lot of my risk-taking. So, I kept a journal in Nellie’s POV. But was I a lot of fun to be around during this time.  

KAREN: First we get Nellie’s story then we get her Mama Josie’s story, and eventually her daughter’s. But why did you think it was important to include in the mix the story of Rose Gardner, mistress to Nellie’s husband?

ANN: Rose, in many ways, is the opposite of Nellie. Her mother thought of selling her for a thousand dollars. She’s big boned where Nellie is thin. She’s practical and street smart. Her view of Nellie as the intruder gives us a peek into her heart. But most importantly she gives the reader a different look at Nellie’s husband. Rose is the balance of this novel. Her love is not blind nor is it buried in denial. She is the heartbeat of the book. Don’t you think?

KAREN: The relationships of the humans in Ghost On Black Mountain are far more haunting than any of the haints. What tricks did you employ to help you interweave all these stories together?

ANN: I spend a lot of time writing in long hand before I move to the computer. This allows me to access different emotions. The women in Ghost On Black Mountain told their story to me many times. If my gut didn’t feel right about a certain scene, I’d take to the character. I know this sounds crazy but I’d write a question down and wait. Sometimes I’d take a walk. Always the character would answer. In the early writing of Nellie’s part, I was very dissatisfied with her reactions to certain events. She informed me I had made her entirely too whiny. She needed to be alone more in the house. But mostly the interweaving of the stories came naturally. I would finish one part and the next character would step up. Even when I added Josie Clay and Shelly Parker into the novel, I instinctively knew where these parts fit in the book.

KAREN: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

ANN: I love all my characters but I would have to say I love Shelly to the very core. She’s by far the bravest character I’ve ever written. She can see and talk to spirits, not because she seeks them but because they find her. Her situation is more than tolerated. She is proactive and strong. Maybe it’s her youth, but I have a feeling she grows up to make a real difference on Black Mountain.

KAREN: Is there any of Ann Hite in any of these women?

ANN: I think that all my women reflect some part of me. In Nellie it’s her determination to survive no matter what. In Josie it’s the mother’s love for her daughter. In Rose, it’s the girl who doesn’t quite fit her mother’s expectations. But Iona is closet to me. I was raised by two very strong women. So strong they outshined any males in my life.

KAREN: You’ve created such a tight community of people. Any chance readers will be revisiting this community in future stories?

ANN: The second novel in the Ghost Mountain series sits with my editor as I write. This book tells the story of Shelly Parker. And that’s all I can tell you.

KAREN: Tell us about a typical writing day for you.

ANN: There is nothing typical about my writing days. When all my kids were home and I had a day job, I would fantasize about an office with a door that I could close and write away. Finally everyone left home except for my youngest daughter. I turned one of the empty bedrooms into the office of my dreams. I went down to work that morning and thought I would just die. I took my laptop and went back to the desk in my bedroom. I’ve been writing there ever since. Each morning I get up with the idea of sitting straight down to write, but it never works out like this. I answer emails, phone calls, and get up fifty times for one reason or another. This goes on for an hour until I finally put a stop to the whole mess and get to work. I am so used to having time restraints because of family or day job I can’t seem to write now when the hours are free. I write my best when everyone is home talking and laughing. I know. It’s what I’ve grown used to. I always write every day. If I don’t, I am miserable.

KAREN: Who is the first person you told when you signed your first publishing contract?

ANN: I called my husband at work and then had to wait for him to return my call. Luckily he called back within five minutes. If he hadn’t I would have popped wide open. He has always been my biggest fan. He has believed in me when only one other person believed. This other person—a dear friend—was the second person I called.

KAREN: Any advice to would-be novelists?

ANN: There are plenty of how-to books on craft. My advice is to use your God-given talent in a way that gives Him glory. Nothing, nothing will ever stop you if you do.

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Okra Picks

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


Spring 2012 Okra Picks

The Confession The Evening Hour A Grown-up Kind of Pretty

The Confession by Charles Todd
William Morrow, January 2012

The Evening Hour by Carter Sickels
Bloomsbury, January 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Grand Central Publishing, January 2012

Render Unto the Valley The Healing The Rebel Wife

Render Unto the Valley by Rose Senehi
KIM Publishing/John Blair. January 2012

The Healing by Jonathan Odell
Random House, February 2012

The Rebel Wife by Taylor M. Polities
Simon and Schuster, February 2012

Same Sun Here The Search Committee What Happened to Hannah

The Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
Candlewick, February 2012

The Search Committee by Tim Owens
Tyndale House, February 2012

What Happened to Hannah by Mary Kay McComas
William Morrow, February 2012

Glow The Hills Remember The Iguana Tree

Glow by Jessica Maria Tuccelli
Viking, March 2012

The Hills Remember by James Still
University Press of Kentucky, March 2012

The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone
Hub City Press, March 2012

The Kentucky Derby by James C. Nicholson
University Press of Kentucky, March 2012

The Kentucky Derby


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Great Bookstores

An Indie Bookstore you should know

Coffeetree Books

CoffeeTree Books in Morehead, KY
159 E. Main Street
Morehead, KY  40351

Family owned and operated, CoffeeTree Books is Eastern Kentucky's oldest and largest independent bookstore. We've been serving readers for over 30 years in Morehead, Kentucky. Along with our coffee shop, The Fuzzy Duck, we are located at 159 E. Main Street in the newly renovated University Cinema. We are a general interest bookstore with great gifts including toys, games, candles, cards and stationery. We also carry a large selection of regional crafts including pottery and jewelery.

CoffeeTree Books is pleased to host events throughout the year including reading groups, musical events, children's storytime in addition to regional and nationally acclaimed authors.  

website | events

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