Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Author Interview: Karen White - Falling Home

I was extremely honored to have the opportunity to read Falling Home by Karen White and speak with her about the book and her experiences in writing Southern Fiction.  I am still working on Falling Home (should have a review posted on Thursday) and I'm loving every page of it.  It is the story of Cassie, a woman who left her small Georgia hometown when her sister ran away with her fiance.  Years later, she returns to face the death of a loved one and all of the relationships she left behind.  I love me some family drama and when it takes place in the South, well, what could be better?  Here's my interview with Karen (her replies are bolded to keep from doing that awkward distinction thing):

Welcome to Book Hooked, Karen! I'm so excited to have the opportunity to read your book and interview you. I'm a huge fan of Southern fiction, and Georgia in particular.

Can you tell us about why you chose to write about the South?

I stick with the adage of ‘write what I know’ and I know the south. Although I’ve only lived in the south for less than half of my years, I come from a long line of southerners. My father’s family has lived in the south since before the American Revolution and both of my parents were born and raised in Mississippi—my father on the Gulf coast and my mother in the Delta. I have relatives still living there who most people from other parts of the country would need a translator to understand. But when I hear them speak, I simply feel as if I have found home.

How would you describe Southern fiction to those who aren't familiar with the genre or with the South?

The south is, in many ways, its history and all of my novels touch upon some part of Dixie’s collective past. But writing southern women’s fiction is so much more than history or even the accent. It’s primarily a sense of place, stocked with those inherently wacky yet familiarly beloved southern characters (remember Aunt Pittypat?)—most of whom I’ve met or find myself related to in real life. It’s the heat and the humidity, too, and the strong sense of family and belonging, good homestyle cooking, and warm hospitality.

Who are some Southern authors you particularly enjoy or who have inspired your own writing?

Margaret Mitchell, Harper Lee, Pat Conroy, Kathryn Stockett and a list so long it would never fit here!

You've lived in such a wide variety of places, not just within the country, but across the world. Do you have a favorite travel destination?

London and Italy. I lived in London for 7 years so every time I visit it's a lot like revisiting an old friend. My family and I traveled there this summer and it was great because we didn't need a tour guide and I didn't even need to look at a Tube map! I've never lived in Italy, but have visited often. The food alone would get me returning again and again, but there's the countryside, the lovely language, the architecture, and the history that grab me each time and make me want to start planning my next trip as soon as I get home.

Part of Falling Home deals with a character who struggles with her plans to sell the family home to developers and the efforts of preservationists to save the home. Is this something you see happening in many small towns across the South?

Unfortunately, yes. As a card-carrying member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation (as well as the Georgia Trust), I get all the news about the bulldozing of our small towns, or their abandonment because of the big box malls and theaters. We're homogenizing America and I don't think it's a good thing to drive through Burlington, Vermont and then Monroe, Georgia and not be able to tell the difference!

This book has been revised since its first publication. To what extent did you make revisions and was it hard to make those changes?
I've been DYING to make those changes and republish the book since the moment it went out of print (within a month of its original publication). Readers loved the story and the characters and I didn't change any of that. I tightened one of the storylines and cleaned up the writing, then added two more points of view (originally it only had one) to add more depth to the story.

What are some aspects of this book that you would consider uniquely Southern?

All of it! :-) It's the whole sense of place, and belonging, that permeates this book. I'm not saying that hometowns are a uniquely southern thing, but their "take" on it is certainly unique!

How much is your writing influenced by your real life and relationships?

A lot of it, especially the voices of the southern women. As a child, I'd sit and listen to my grandmother, mother, and four aunts sitting around the kitchen table in my grandmother's Indianola, Mississippi home and it's those voices, soft yet thick as the Delta mud, that I hear when I create my strong southern heroines.

You'll also see two recurring themes in my books: a search for home and family, and rebuilding. All of my books have some historic structure as a main character.

Look for my review Thursday with the reasons I think this makes for wonderful Southern Fiction!


  1. I am a fan of Southern fiction even though I've never travelled to that part of the US. I love reading about it and learning about the history.
    I will have to add this one to my list!
    Great interview!!

  2. How interesting that she chose to rewrite it, and republish...hope she has good luck with it...I love Southern fiction, so I will definitely take a look at this one :)