I grew up in a modern 1970’s neighborhood, and I lived for those days of summer when we’d pile into the car and head to my Mee-maw’s farm in Armuchee, Georgia. It felt like pure heaven as a bunch of us cousins rode horses bare-back down through the bottomland, plucking blackberries and hunting arrowheads along the Oostenaula River. In the evenings, I’d sit very still out on the porch, listening to my kinfolks indulging in that wonderful southern tradition of oral storytelling. Their stories were fabulous, truly stranger than fiction, and I was collecting them like lightning bugs.
My family says that as soon as I was able to string words together, I was telling my own stories. In grammar school, I began writing them down into little books crudely fashioned from construction paper (yes, Mama saved them all). As I moved to middle school, then to high school, English teachers would put encouraging notes on my report cards, and for me, a particularly nerdy child, it was a way to shine. To hold my head up a bit even if I was picked last for teams during P.E. class.
In 1985 I earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Georgia, graduated and landed a string of torturous sales jobs. A closet writer, I still penned poems, short stories, and the random haiku.
Along came marriage, and a baby carriage, actually three of them, and yet, my insatiable need to create stories did not subside. In October of 1998, my husband noticed an ad in a local magazine for a short story contest co-sponsored by a publisher named Hill Street Press. I entered, and one sunny morning the phone rang. I won. I would have my story published! To make a long story short, Hill Street Press subsequently published my novel, Truelove & Homegrown Tomatoes in the spring of 2001. It became a southern bestseller and they then sold the paperback rights to Simon & Schuster, who bought the rights to my second and third novels as well. Since then I’ve been published by Penguin, Summerside Press, and very soon, Abingdon Press.
I’m often asked about where my story ideas come from, but it is a very mysterious process even to me when something gets transformed from an idea or thought into a story. I firmly believe the aptitude to write is a gift and entrustment from God and I take very seriously the commitment to co-create stories He won’t be ashamed of. I love country music and I once read a comment from Merle Haggard about his music that struck me as how I feel about my writing. He said, “Music is a positive vibration we all need. It comes through me and I believe it comes from God. The Lord is just using me as an instrument and I’m just doing the best I can to respond to what He wants.”
When I sit down to write, the story is the first thing on my agenda, but somehow my plots always seem to interweave themselves with spiritual themes – with many different angles of “the human condition” as it pertains to that mystical relationship between the Creator and the individual. I write of the transcendent, the mysterious, the irrational.
In addition to telling stories, my favorite things include reading good books, listening to country music, painting pictures, coffee with friends, people watching, and spending time with my husband, children and their menagerie of furry creatures.