HANK: Don't you love finding a new friend? Well. Meet Liz Talbot. (I just tucked in a photo of my dahlias because they're so great this year.)
Liz is a modern Southern belle: she blesses hearts and takes names. She carries her Sig 9 in her Kate Spade handbag, and her golden retriever, Rhett, rides shotgun in her hybrid Escape. When her grandmother is murdered, Liz high-tails it back to her South Carolina island home to find the killer.
Okay, fine, Liz is fictional. She's the brain-child of the fabulous Susan Boyer, a debut author with a witty voice and a huge heart. Susan's a Guppy, of course, which makes her instantly wonderful. I had the pleasure of reading her new book--and well, you know those moments when you think-whoa! She's got it! That's how I felt about LOW COUNTRY BOIL.
And we'll give a copy to one lucky commenter! And now--shhh...we're going to hear the dish about Susan's family...
It All Comes Down to Family
My extended family clan has more members than some towns. My people have gone forth and multiplied, is what I’m saying. I should add, right up front, that while I explore family dynamics in my writing, I don’t write about my family. The exception is an occasional blog, and when I tell one of them I’ve used them in a blog, they stand up straight and grin. If they were peacocks, their feathers would no doubt fan.
Because the relationship between sisters is complex, it’s one of my favorite themes in fiction. My sister and I joke that we were once a single egg which subdivided and we were separated before birth. Mamma calls us her twins born ten years apart. We’re exactly alike, except in the ways we are not. I’m what folks politely call “big-boned,” while my sister is petite, bless her heart. We’re both OCD control freaks. We finish each other’s sentences and have our own, secret texting shorthand. When I think of her, the phone rings and she’s on the line.
We agree on virtually everything. But in the space between “virtually everything” and “absolutely everything,” unfortunate altercations occasionally erupt. When we disagree, we do it in spectacular fashion. It infuriates her that I could possibly hold a differing position on anything. I feel the same way. If the conversation drifts towards treacherous waters while we’re in our mother’s house, Mamma throws up her hands, says, “I’m leaving,” and walks out the back door. She always comes back—well, she always has so far. Daddy instigates these dramas for entertainment. He knows our points of dissension well. Our brother—the middle child—eggs it on just to keep things interesting. I’m absolutely convinced any one of us would take a bullet for any of the others.
But I’m here to tell you, it’s true what they say about Southern families—we are neither ashamed of nor scared by eccentricity. By way of example, I offer Aunt Avalee, who is convinced her neighbor is throwing birdseed on her roof so the birds will peck holes in it, and Aunt Clarene, whose house has been repeatedly broken into by someone who vacuums and leaves without taking or disturbing anything. I have many more examples. So many more.
When I married Sugar, I left the small town where I grew up. At the time, it never entered my mind this would be a permanent thing. My sister moved away as well, and we frequently lament not living close enough to inhabit each other’s daily lives. My brother lives fifteen minutes from Mamma’s backdoor. I envy him that. In my fantasy life, we all live back in that small town, a block or two away from each other, and we all go to Mamma and Daddy’s on Sunday for supper. We pop in and out of each other’s homes several times a week. My dreams are made of simple things. But these simple things are simply out of reach.
Sugar’s job requires him to live near an airport. Three of our four children have put down roots in Greenville, South Carolina, where we’ve lived for many years and where they grew up. We have friends whose lives have become intertwined with ours through shared joys and heartaches who we would be hard pressed to leave behind. And, much of Sugar’s side of our family resides in Greenville. Going home is not an option for me.
So, I write about what I long for—family, small towns, and pristine beaches—and of course, solving murders and taking down the bad guy.
Do y’all have big families? If you’re a writer, do your family relationships sometimes influence the themes you write about?
HANK: Well, I have one full sister, two half-sisters, and a half-brother who I grew up with, and two-half sisters and two half-brothers I DIDN'T grow up with. And yes, my books are all about family--whether they seem to be or not. (And if you've read THE OTHER WOMAN, you know that!).
Jungle Red is delighted to offer a copy of LOW COUNTRY BOIL to one lucky commenter--so tell all about your family--and you may soon be reading about Liz Talbot's!
Susan M. Boyer has been making up stories her whole life. She tags along with her husband on business trips whenever she can because hotels are great places to write: fresh coffee all day and cookies at 4 p.m. They have a home in Greenville, SC, which they occasionally visit. Susan’s short fiction has appeared in moonShine Review, Spinetingler Magazine, Relief Journal, The Petigru Review, and Catfish Stew. Her debut novel, Lowcountry Boil, is a 2012 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense recipient and an RWA Golden Heart® finalist.