I write Southern fiction. I know it's Southern fiction because it's set in the South and I've lived in southern Alabama all my life--how much more Southern can you get? But, apparently, some people don't consider a book to be Southern fiction unless it contains at least two characters who either sport beehive hairdos or have names like Lula Mae Ledbetter or Cletis Joe Clampett. And they need to eat lots of cornbread and collards or biscuits and red-eye gravy while they hang out at greasy spoons like MawMaw's Kitchen and talk about the time they faced the wrath of the Klan by inviting Pearlie Lou's grandson Jamarcus to little Clementine's sixth birthday party.
Sorry, but my friends and family have names like Robin and Stephen, I've never seen a Klansman in real life, and neither cornbread nor biscuits are on the Atkins diet, so I only eat them on special occasions. My books have plenty of Southern charm and ambience, but it's not forced the way it seems to be in some (but definitely not all) of those "down-home" Southern books. And I absolutely refuse to throw in racial unrest where there is none just to attract the attention of Yankee--ahem, I mean, Northern editors who have no idea what it's really like in the South.
TRUE BLUE FOREVER is a prime example of this. Its characters attend Vigor High School, the predominantly black school I attended that made the national news because of the race riots that went on there in the early seventies. Of course, all that was over by the time I went there from 76-80, and race was truly a non-issue for my classmates and me, so I refused to play it up in TRUE BLUE FOREVER just so I could claim to publishers that my book was a social statement on desegregation and civil rights. I have both black and white characters in TRUE BLUE FOREVER, but I refused to portray them any way other than the way my classmates and I got along--without race being an issue.
BTW, I had a book signing yesterday at a local independent book store called Black Classics, Books and Gifts. Race wasn't an issue there either. And we didn't sit around eating chicken and dumplings with cat-head biscuits for sopping up the gravy.
Although. . . I think I'll make some chicken and dumplings for supper tonight. Better go make a big pitcher of sweet tea to go with it, so I gotta run.
~Stay true to yourself, and your dreams will come true.