Friday, April 30, 2010

Guest Blogger - Lila Dare


Many thanks to the Mayhem and Magic duo for inviting me over to talk about Tressed to Kill, the first in my Southern Beauty Shop mystery series.


Since I’m at Malice Domestic as you read this, participating in a panel discussion about settings, I thought I’d chat a bit about my book’s setting, a small, fictional town on the Georgia coast called St. Elizabeth.

When you’re an author writing about the Deep South, you have a gaggle of literary heavy weights breathing over your shoulder: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Pat Conroy, among others. They’ve defined the South in such iconic ways it seems as if there’s nothing left to add. You also have the stereotypes of Southern life that trickle down through movies like Gone with the Wind, Driving Miss Daisy, and Deliverance. Is that a pair of dueling banjos I hear? And you practically have a duty to mention grits, kudzu, and the Civil War since that’s what a large percentage of the non-South U.S. population thinks about when they think of any state south of the Mason-Dixon line.

My own experience of the South—I was born in Georgia and have lived in Alabama, Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas (which some consider the West but which has distinct Southern sensibilities in some areas)—includes some of these stereotypes but not all of them. Trust me, I know less about the Civil War than the average fifth grader in Oregon; luckily, my husband who grew up in L.A. (Los Angeles, not Louisiana) is a Civil War buff and was able to feed me enough facts to make the Civil War enactor in my series realistic. I was never a debutante, but recall looking at their black and white photos in the local newspaper and thinking how much fun it would be. I eat grits reluctantly and collard greens not at all, and would rather die of dehydration than drink sweet tea; however, I love biscuits and gravy, Tab, and pecan pie.

Tressed to Kill depicts a small Southern town that is likewise a mix of expectation and surprises. Violetta Terhune, sixty and widowed, runs a beauty parlor out of her Victorian home. Her recently divorced daughter Grace has returned from Atlanta to work with her mom and has some difficulty settling back into small town life after her stay in “Hotlanta.” Violetta’s best friend Althea is the salon’s aesthetician. She’s black and therefore had a significantly different experience growing up in the South than Vi did. The salon’s seventeen-year-old shampoo girl, Rachel, shows the young, modern side of small town Georgia. When one of the salon’s snootiest and most obnoxious clients is murdered, the women bring their separate backgrounds and abilities to finding the killer since the police suspect Violetta. Grace takes the lead in investigating a case that seems to have more snarls than a beehive hair-do. I like to think of the book as “Steel Magnolias with dead bodies.”

The story also features an antebellum mansion and a water moccasin, two familiar Southern images. What “southernisms” have I failed to mention? Leave a comment about your favorite Deep South tradition, image, or saying and you might win an autographed copy of Tressed to Kill!

3 comments:

  1. I hope to run into you at Malice!

    Terri

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  2. You've hooked me as I love very southern mysteries since I've read Ann George and Patricia Sprinkle. I really want to read your books. I know you and Terri are at Malice today and having loads of fun.

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  3. Malice has been fun--and busy! Thanks for having me on the blog today! I hope you enjoy reading TRESSED TO KILL as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    Lila Dare

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