Elaine Drennon Little, author of A Southern Place, launches her WOW! blog tour
An expertly written Southern Drama!
A Southern Place is a moving book that is expertly written. Mary Jane Hatcher—everyone calls her Mojo—is beat up bad. She's in the ICU of Phoebe Putney, the largest hospital in South Georgia, barely able to talk. How Mojo goes from being that skinny little girl in Nolan, a small forgotten town along the Flint River, to the young woman now fighting for her life, is where this story begins and ends.
Mojo, her mama Delores and her Uncle Calvin Mullinax, like most folks in Nolan, have just tried to make the best of it. Of course, people aren't always what they seem, and Phil Foster—the handsome, spoiled son of the richest man in the county—is no exception.
As the story of the Mullinax family unfolds, Mojo discovers a family's legacy can be many things: a piece of earth, a familiar dwelling, a shared bond. And although she doesn't know why she feels such a bond with Phil Foster, it is there all the same, family or not. And she likes to think we all have us a fresh start. Like her mama always said, the past is all just water under the bridge. Mojo, after going to hell and back, finally comes to understand what that means.
Paperback: 294 pages
Publisher: WiDo Publishing (August 6, 2013)
Twitter hashtag: #ASPLittle
A Southern Place is available as a print and e-book at Amazon.
Book Giveaway Contest:
To win a copy of A Southern Place, please enter using the Rafflecopter form at the bottom of this post. The giveaway contest closes THIS Friday, August 23rd at 12:00 AM EST. We will announce the winner the same day in the Rafflecopter widget. Good luck!
About the Author:
Find out more about Elaine by visiting her online:
Author blog: http://elainedrennonlittle.wordpress.com/
Author Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/elaine.d.little
-----Interview by Crystal J. Otto
WOW: Elaine, your background is very interesting, can you point to one person in particular, or one life event that really pushed you in the direction of publishing A Southern Place?
Elaine: Wow, that’s a pretty loaded question, but I’ll do my best. The original story for A Southern Place was actually a submission for The First Line, a print literary journal that provides what must be the first sentence of all submitted work. For that issue, the line was something like “Time there was not measured by days or weeks, but by the number of eighteen-wheelers that drove through town.” I loved the sentence; it was easy to see Newton, the tiny Georgia county seat where I grew up, as being the very place in the picture it painted. My story was not chosen for the magazine, but I couldn’t seem to let go of the idea, so I continued to play with it. After being accepted into an MFA program in 2010, I tweaked the story and added a little more, turning it in for work-shopping at my first residency there. I guess you could say it was well-received: my professors and fellow students all seemed to like it, their biggest criticism being that it was NOT a short story, but the beginning of a larger work. I kept going, and by the end of my second semester I had finished the first (of MANY) drafts of the book you see today.
WOW: Glad you didn’t give up after the rejection! You mentioned in your biography you were adopted at birth, did that life event play a role in the way you wrote the family bonds in A Southern Place? Can you tell us more about the characters (specifically uncle Cal)?
Elaine: The characters in A Southern Place are totally fictional, but I guess they could be considered composites of people I’ve known in South Georgia. My adopted family took me home when I was five days old, so they feel as much “mine” as any blood relatives, I believe. The Mullinax family’s close ties with home, family, and particularly with the land that they cultivate would be very much like my own. Whereas my own family was of the more commonplace conservative and church-going style, the Mullinax family is more relaxed and “free-wheeling” than mine. As an imaginative child, I suppose Mojo’s family might have been one of the many stereotypes of families I fantasized about when wondering about my birthparents.
Uncle Cal is perhaps my favorite character—he is the son my father should have had. His bond with the land is much like that of my dad’s; it is its own religion. (On a side note, Mr. Danner, the county extension agent, more or less IS my father’s cameo appearance!) Cal has the most positive attitude in the face of continuing bad luck, and relentless work and belief in “life being what you make of it” only make him stronger. He is not without fault; his alcoholism drives him to an early grave. Cal’s short relationship with Claudette was the most “fun to write” chapter of the book, and his funeral is, to me, the most beautifully written section.
WOW: Cal sure was a favorite for me too; you did a fabulous job writing each and every character. In particular, I love the independent women in your novel; in what ways are you similar to the characters of MoJo and/or her mother?
Elaine: Goodness, Crystal, you cut right to the chase don’t you? Mojo is about my age. As stated earlier, we didn’t come from the same kind of family, but I spent a lot of my younger years “pretending” to have other lives, and Mojo’s strangely dysfunctional family would have been one I’d have liked to play out in my head. (I don’t claim to know why it is, but kids with enough food, clothing, books, and more-than-necessities seem to find the opposite as somewhat fascinating. In my defense, I also liked to imagine myself as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Frank, a missionary in China, and a little later, one of those pioneer pseudo-sluts in horrendous paperbacks like Sweet Savage Love and The Flame and the Flower. Go figure!)
I love that you infer that I might have the strength of these characters, but sadly, I do not. I’ve had a good life, but I had great parents who dedicated much of their lives to make sure I was fed, clothed, educated and loved. I’ve never been faced with the kind of challenges Mojo saw; I’m not sure I’d be half as resourceful, but thanks for the compliment.
As for her mother, Delores, parts of her story are closer to home. I openly admitted to my high school students that in 1974, I was a statistic. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that there is only 17 years difference in my and my oldest daughter’s ages. If Delores’s first visit to the gynecologist seems real, it’s because I lived it. It was, to this day, one of the most humbling experiences of my life, and it breaks my heart to think of any young girl in the same scenario today, but it does happen. Society may be more accepting, but the feeling of humiliation hasn’t progressed so far.
WOW: Thank you for such a candid answer and you really wrote those scenes so well, it’s easy to tell they are close to your heart. On a lighter note, what is your favorite book? What is it about that book that you love so much?
Elaine: My favorite first sentence is in Peachtree Road by Anne River Siddons.
My favorite paragraph is on the last page of The Great Santini by Pat Conroy. Though I love Caldwell, Faulker, and dozens of traditional southern literary writers, I’ve only been recently been able to admit what must be my favorite book: http://elainedrennonlittle.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/liberating-me/
WOW: It’s hard to pick a favorite, isn’t it? I have trouble with that myself. Who was most influential in your writing and publishing?
Elaine: My high school English teacher, Mrs. Virginia Newby Jones, told me I should write a book. It took an additional 35 years, but I finally did.
Suzanne Kingsbury, a wonderful writer and book doctor, taught me a whole world of ways to conserve words and make my writing more believable. She also encouraged me to follow my dream of going back to school for an MFA. I thank every teacher, mentor, and fellow student at Spalding University—being part of that community was the greatest experience of my adult life.
WOW: Elaine, you grew up on a farm and I happen to own a farm; I know firsthand it’s a lot of work, but what did you enjoy most? Was there a particular chore your liked or an animal that became your favorite?
Elaine: Here’s what I mean about having an easy life: I grew up on a large farm that produced cattle, swine, peanuts, soybeans, corn, and cotton. However, I never had any farming-type chores because I had severe childhood asthma; there were times in elementary school when my parents were told by doctors to take me to higher altitude, even out of state, until it rained again. Heat and dust were lethal to me, so I spent most of my childhood inside, reading books or playing the piano. As a teenager, my dad found me so mechanically UN-inclined that he promised to keep me in automatic-steered vehicles if I never again asked him to teach me to drive a stick shift. I do have a special affinity for admiring fields of crops or grazing cattle. And I still have a talent for being a bit of a “cat whisperer” to feral cats. That’s about it—I told you I had it easy!
WOW: I won’t share that answer with my children—they’ll be stuck helping in the barn. You may not be mechanical, but your writing skills make up for it!
You must have some great stories to tell after more than a decade as a music and drama teacher; do you have one story in particular that sticks out as the funniest or craziest?
Elaine: In 28 years, I have TOO many funny stories. I guess my particular favorite came from the class I “created” in my final years—My Men’s Chorus class.
In high school, girls may join a chorus class for many reasons, and some of them are NOT musical—because she doesn’t want to get sweaty in PE, break a nail in pottery, or because it may not be socially cool to be in vocational classes. You’d be surprised at the number of females who LETTER in chorus yet only truly participate by filling a seat or lip-syncing when the teacher is watching. This is not to give girls in chorus a bad name as a whole, but such young ladies ARE out there.
The boys, however, are generally different. Since through the years many of the high school “jocks and jerks” have inferred that singing is a “less than manly” activity, when a young man signs up for a chorus class, he usually WANTS to sing. My men’s class started with 9 students. Within five years, it had over 30 and was the highlight of my concerts.
It did take some getting used to. Having no brothers or sons, I was not comfortable with the amount of testosterone in the room. The discipline principal gave me no help, telling me “you asked for it, now you have to deal with it” when I wrote up a young man for “purposeful flatulence.” I learned that the punch line “that’s what she said” would HAVE to be tolerated at least once during every class period. Once I got over these few guidelines, it was all good.
These guys not only wanted to sing, they got excited about it. They sang sailor songs, and folk songs, and Beach Boys classics. They learned to build chords, we worked from bell-to-bell without stopping, and by the third year we were even warming up in four-part harmony. We produced three state champion quartets.
They told me far more than I wanted to know. At least once a week I had to remind them that I did not need nor want to hear their personal feelings about particular females—whether Britney Spears, Megan Fox, or girls they actually knew. And then one day there was grand finale of all class stories: the day they taught Logan to “booty dance.”
Logan, a handsome, shy, and multi-talented freshman became quite the ladies’ man after being seen as the shirtless bongo drummer in our region championship musical. He came into class “pumped,” telling the guys that he’d just been asked to the prom by a “hot” senior girl. There were cat-calls, high fives, and such, then one of the older guys asked if he was ready to “booty dance.”
“Yeah,” he said, “I know how to dance. I mean, I’ve been going to dances since middle school. It’s no different, right?”
The older guys laughed, soon joined in by the rest. Logan simply looked confused.
“Why are you laughing? What’s funny?” he asked.
“Poor baby,” said John, an older jock-Latino who just happened to sing as well as he could through a football. “Well guys,” he said to his friends. “Guess we’ll have to teach him.”
“Yeah,” said Adam. “We can’t have him giving us choir boys a bad name. Get the door!” He nodded toward the door as another student made sure it was secured.
For the next forty minutes, four juniors and and five seniors proceeded to teach, in hands-on methods, their clueless friend the finer points of booty dancing. They started out holding one of a partner’s hands, while doing a slow and seductive hip-sway thing.
When Logan didn’t “get it,” one boy placed his hands OVER Logan’s hips and guided them from side to side, then circling, while another boy performed exactly the same moves while standing directly in front of Logan. In a few minutes, four or five boys were all doing the same moves, stand one-by-one in front of Logan, like dancing dominoes.
As Logan began to move easier, the leader removed his hand from Logan's hips, now facing him; he held one hand of Logan’s then offered various pointers of what to do next.
“Smile,” John said, looking into Logan’s eyes, almost—seductively? “Look into her eyes,” he said. “Then reach up, maybe brush her hair off her shoulder, onto her back.” John did this as he explained, brushing imaginary hair off Logan’s shoulder, then nonchalantly dragging his hand down Logan’s arm, hip, then lingering for a moment at thigh-level.
By this time all but the very shyest boys were participating. They went from wandering hands to rotating pelvises, front-to-front and then back-to-front. As John assumed the “man” position by extending his bent leg, Logan was coerced to the girl position—straddling John’s leg and “humping” over it. I’d chaperoned a dance or two, and it bothered me when “real” couples did this, yet it was somewhere between unnerving and totally hilarious to see a room full of teenaged boys trying this in unison. They were fair about it, once Logan understood the “girl’s” part, they let him graduate to the other. There were a few more moves and ideas carried out, but I pretty much lost track after that one.
The bell rang. The boys stopped their antics, grabbed their books and headed out for their next class, acting as though nothing out of the ordinary had just occurred.
I was ever so happy to have planning next—it took at least that long to gather my senses for a “normal” class…
WOW: I’m so glad you were able to share that with us; everyone can use a good laugh!
You credit a writing workshop for pointing you in the right direction for publishing A Southern Place, please tell us more? What advice would you give an author looking to be published?
Elaine: I attended a seminar sponsored by the Atlanta Writer’s Club where an agent gave her “what we’re looking for” speech. I followed the list explicitly, and within a couple of months a got a letter in the mail. She (the agent) was covered in clients, but liked the book well enough to pass it on to another agent in the firm. On Valentine’s Day of 2012, I received a letter with a contract from Amanda Wells of The Sullivan-Maxx Agency. Three months later, she had found a publisher who wanted my book. I consider myself VERY lucky; I’m sure there are books much better than mine that simply never have the right combination of events to make it happen.
WOW: Any sneak peeks for us about what is in your future? Is there a sequel to A Southern Place? Do we get to learn more about MoJo?
Elaine: I’ve had several people ask me that; I hadn’t really considered it, but maybe…
I’m a little more than halfway through my next book, currently called (I’ve learned that titles can ALWAYS change) Songbird Divas. It’s the first in a trilogy about three middle-aged women all involved in music as a career, and it’s set in North Georgia. I’m also playing with the idea of doing another revision of my first book, “Birds Flying South,” set in the same location as A Southern Place.
WOW: Thank you so much for allowing us some insight into your life, experiences, and your first novel. I personally cannot wait to read more from you Elaine. Thank you so much!
----------Blog Tour Dates
Monday, August 19 (today!) @ The Muffin
Stop by for an interview and book giveaway!
Tuesday, August 20 @ Words, Crazy Words
Today is a great opportunity to sit down with Elaine as she blogs about “Book Clubs.” Don’t forget to sign up to win your own copy of Elaine’s expertly written book A Southern Place!
Wednesday, August 21 @ Found Between the Covers
Win a copy of A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little and read what Sherrey Meyer has to say in her honest review of this first novel by a talented new voice in southern fiction.
Thursday, August 22 @ Bring On Lemons
Get in on the giveaway and join WOW!'s own Crystal Otto as she reviews Elaine Drennon Little’s first novel, A Southern Place.
Friday, August 23 @ CMash Reads
Don't miss today's giveaway and book review for Elaine Drennon Little's A Southern Place #ASPLittle!
Saturday, August 24 @ Memoir Writer’s Journey
Kathleen Pooler reviews and shares her thoughts on A Southern Place and offers readers her insight as well as a giveaway. Don’t miss this stop!
Monday, August 26 @ Books I Think You Should Read
Find out what Elizabeth Parker has to say after reading Elaine Drennon Little's debut novel, A Southern Place and don't miss out on this great giveaway!
Tuesday, August 27 @ Renee’s Pages
Don’t miss Elaine Drennon Little and her guest post about “Southern Fiction” and this giveaway for Elaine’s fabulous southern fiction novel titled A Southern Place.
Wednesday, August 28 @ Steph the Bookworm
Get in on the giveaway and join Stephanie as she reviews Elaine Drennon Little’s first novel, A Southern Place.
Thursday, August 29 @ Bette Lee Crosby
Elaine Drennon Little visits the website of fellow author Bette Lee Crosby and Elaine discusses “Literary Fiction” and offers a giveaway of her debut novel A Southern Place.
Monday, September 2 @ All Things Audry
Don't miss your chance to win a copy of A Southern Place and enjoy a guest post by author, Elaine Drennon Little as she shares “My Favorite Authors/Favorite Books”
Tuesday, September 3 @ Tiffany Talks Books
Join Elaine Drennon Little as she visits Tiffany Talks Books for a promo post, guest post about "Arts in Schools" and a giveaway for her debut novel A Southern Place!
Wednesday, September 4 @ My Fiction Nook
Now is your chance - be part of the giveaway for this fabulous Southern Fiction Novel and hear from Elaine Drennon Little as she chats about her experience with “Reading Among Farm Families” and shares more about her first novel, A Southern Place. This is a post you won’t want to miss!
Thursday, September 5 @ The Book Bag
The Spotlight at the Book Bag is none other than Elaine Drennon Little and her debut novel, A Southern Place #ASPLittle; check out this great blog stop and get in on the givewaway!
Friday, September 6 @ I’d So Rather Be Reading
Elaine Drennon Little shares her thoughts on Book Clubs in Schools and offers a giveaway of her debut novel, A Southern Place. This is a stop you won't want to miss!
Monday, September 9 @ Mom-E-Centric
Elaine Drennon Little lets us in on her thoughts about “Free Writing vs. Controlled” and a chance for the giveaway of her newly released novel, A Southern Place!
Tuesday, September 10 @ Thoughts in Progress
Don't miss this giveaway opportunity for A Southern Place (#ASPLittle) and read what Elaine Drennon Little has to say about "Reading in the New South" as her tour takes her to Thoughts in Progress as a guest blogger!
Thursday, September 12 @ Words from the Heart
Hear from author of A Southern Place (#ASPLittle) as Elaine Drennon Little shares her thoughts about “Creative arts Programs in Schools”
Friday, September 13 @ Margo L. Dill
Find out what Margo is thinking after reading A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little and be sure to participate in the giveaway for this debut novel!
To view all our touring authors, check out our Events Calendar. Keep up with blog stops and giveaways in real time by following us on Twitter @WOWBlogTour.
Get Involved! If you have a website or blog and would like to host one of our touring authors or schedule a tour of your own, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Book Giveaway Contest: Enter to win a copy of A Southern Place by Elaine Drennon Little! Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below. We will announce the winner in the Rafflecopter widget THIS Friday, August 23rd.
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