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My Personal Backstory

I grew up a preacher's kid in Georgia and Alabama. My identity as a Southerner is stronger than my identity as an American simply because it goes back farther -- to at least age three when was too young to articulate it. We would climb into our pale green Henry J to go to church, to town, or to visit family, and I would stand in the front seat (no wussie car seats or lap belts for us Boomer kids, nosiree), stare out the windows, and feel a sense of belonging to this place...

At the time, the place that evoked this sense of belonging was my hometown, Dalton, Georgia, but as I grew older, the boundaries of my place expanded outward. By the time I reached my teens, it encompassed the entire South.

My Writing Background

I'm a former staff writer for The Florida Sun, (now the Pensacola Independent News), which was published, starting in 1999, in Pensacola, Florida by former Congressman Joe Scarborough (now the star of "Morning Joe" on MSNBC).

"Read Cover to Cover, Never Bound by the Truth" said the little slogan in the top left corner of the cover.  My articles were all nonfiction and ran the gamut from travel to current events and chemtrails to Bigfoot in Dixie.

Pop Culture Authors Who Inspired Me to Write

Rex Stout -- author of the Nero Wolf detective series -- the voice of Archie Goodwin, who shares with Scout Finch the honor
of being my favorite first-person narrator. I read my first Wolfe Book at age thirteen, Might As Well Be Dead.

Frances Parkinson Keyes -- her sprawling Louisiana novels are a bit dated now and politically incorrect but her settings and characters are highly memorable. (Clyde Batchelor of Steamboat Gothic is the quintessential romance hero, in my humble opinion.)

Dixie Browning -- Back in the '80s, Dixie was the first to inspire me to try my hand at writing romance. Most of Dixie's novels that I read were set in the South, along the Atlantic coast, which was a big attraction for me. It was doubly enjoyable because I could tell Dixie was a Southerner and knew her setting and her people.

Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee -- Need I say more? 

The South and Southerners ~ My Writing Inspiration
A Land of Legend, Song, and Hallowed, Heroic Memories

Why Southern fiction? The words of Edward Carmack (1858-1908), Congressman, Senator and prominent  journalist in Tennessee, offer a an insightful place to start a discussion of my motives for writing about the South and its people: 

The South is a land that hs known sorrows. It is a land that has broken the ashen crust and moistened it with tears, a land scarred and riven by the plowhare of war and billowed with the graves of her dead, but a land of legend, a land of song, a land of hallowed and heroic memories. To that land, every drop of my blood, every fibre of my being, every pulsation of my heart is consecrated forever. I was born of her womb, I was nurtured at her breast and when my last hour shall come, I pray that I may lie upon her bosom and be rocked to sleep within her tender and encircling arms.

Southern literature, has long been recognized as a distinctive genre few other regions of the United States can claim, the exception being the Western.  A look at the genre and its writers gives one a clue about the depth, breadth and richness of the vein of storytelling ore that runs through the culture of the South. 

The variety of locations and settings is equally rich -- from mountains to seashore, great forests to desert to lush farmlands, glittering cities to sleepy small towns to vast rural stretches. 

The South boasts other elements that speak to its uniqueness... its 160 or so spoken dialects and delightful Southernisms . . .the cuisine -- sweet tea, tomato sandwiches, cornbread, fried chicken (for that matter, fried anything), succulent seafood and spicy gumbo . . . the flora -- live oaks draped with Spanish moss, ubiquitous pines, creamy-blossomed magnolias and yucca, showy azaleas, sweet-smelling honeysuckle. . . . 

Then there's the history, the culture -- ten thousand years of Indian civilization, European settlement, antebellum plantation society, the pervasive influence of Christianity and tradition, and postbellum economic oppression that lasted for generations.  Throw in the hunting and fishing, Sunday singings, college football extravaganzas, going to mama'n'them's, the many distinctive music genres, renown hospitality and much, much more, and you begin to see what makes Dixie a fascinating backdrop for the storyteller's art. 
 
 

 

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Original Material © Copyright 2019 by Connie Chastain