In my novel series my main character bounty hunter Angel Crawford must solve mysteries steeped in southern history and family secrets. In A GOOD EXCUSE TO BE BAD Angel has to immerse herself in Atlanta’s megachurch culture and rely on her friendship with her handsome single pastor to save her sister and herself from a killer. In SOMEONE BAD AND SOMETHING BLUE (releases July 2012) Angel introduces us to contemporary speakeasies, moonshiners, southern gentlemen’s clubs, and interracial romance, in order to save a single mom and her daughter from a killer and a community whose family code is too old and steeped in so much tradition that it doesn’t make good common sense.
Although these issues are paramount to southern history and culture, my job as a contemporary suspense author is to make the stories universal, relevant, and page turning to any reader, regardless of region. So how can a southern writer accomplish this goal?
1. Write about the thing that keeps up at night.
I am a mom. So, of course, my maternity keeps me up all night. I want to be the best mom I can be. Yet, I’m very flawed. Therefore when I created Angel, the bounty hunter. I wanted someone who seemed to have it all figured out, be just as wrong as we all can be. I wanted her chief concern to always be her mission to take care of her family, no matter the cost. This objective is universal to all parents.
2. I brainstorm story ideas by seeing what’s relevant in today’s news with what’s going on with my main character.
When I wrote A Good Excuse to Be Bad Atlanta megachurches hadn’t gone through the scandals that we’ve read about the past few years. However, as Christian journalist, I had witnessed things behind closed doors that I knew would be interesting to build a story around. To keep my story universal—not limit it just to Atlantans—I incorporated the IRS investigation of megachurches a few years back to ground my story in a realistic setting that would related to readers across region.
3. Peel back the 4th Wall.
Both of my novels introduce Angel Crawford readers to a culture they wouldn’t know about without insider knowledge (ie: Armor Bearer Societies, bail recovery in Georgia, modern moonshining, and Gentlemen fashion aficionados.) All of these cultures and clubs are unique to southern life, but also fascinating to the world.
4. The joy and tradition of storytelling.
I come from a long line or oral storytellers. They never imagined to be writers or to make profit from their stories, but they loved to tell them. Southerners have a rich heritage of oral storytelling, spoken word, coupling rhythm and diction to create pace…it is a southern charm that we have privy to. I make sure I use it as I write by speaking out my prose, listening to the dialogue as I reread it, and making sure each sentence carries a rhythm that fits the mood of the scene. I like to put my arms and feet in a story just like southern cooking.
Now… what do you do to showcase your regional voice in your story?