NOTE: This blog post is also at Edin Road Radio where Hope presents tonight at 6:30 PM Eastern Time. Tune in and listen!
When you compose words and scenes, you don’t foresee how readers will
accept them. Writing a regional novel, I had my doubts whether folks in
the Pacific Northwest, New England, or the Midwestern Corn Belt would
find it interesting. The dialect, slang, and witticisms held deep South
connotations, and humor is difficult to spin on a universal scale. What I
saw as beautiful scenery along the marshes of my home state might seem
icky to someone from the city. And unless someone grew up on a farm,
would hogs add anything to a plot? My concern was underlined by New York
agents who voiced skepticism about the culture and didn’t “get it.”
I drove myself crazy, wondering how to rewrite a tale that everyone
would appreciate. Some colloquial verbiage was cut when my international
online critique group didn’t understand, like “happy as a dead pig in
the sunshine.” I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again, striving for a
balance between a colorful Southern lingo and a language everybody
However, after 72 queries, a California agent who raised horses grasped
the visual of the writing and the uniqueness of the story. Thanks to
her, a Memphis publisher, Bell Bridge Books, read the manuscript and
loved the sass and setting, understanding all my Southernisms.
A writer cannot write for all readers. The best of the bestsellers are
not beloved by all, regardless of their talent. And those that try to
compose for all sorts of interests will fail. So I stuck to what I knew,
the environment I grew up with, using the background I loved so well,
telling myself I might have to settle for regional acceptance.
To my amazement, the reviews on Amazon show that readers interpreted the story in many different ways.
Some saw it as a mystery interlaced with humor and wit. “…a fiery and
fiesty Southern Belle with a wickedly dry sense of humor and an endless
supply of priceless (and quite quotable) one-liners.” While others saw
the protagonist as, “a tough mother, bitchy boss and remorseful,
One labeled it as a suspense thriller. “Lowcountry Bribe is as good a
suspense thriller with a strong female protagonist as I have read, and
that includes the likes of Patricia Cornwell, Janet Evanovich, J.D.
Robb, or Jan Burke. Slade can, and does, run with the best of them. This
is a spine tingling thriller with a twist that will take your breath
away…” While another considered it, “Part southern fiction, part
hard-boiled mystery and part romance, and well worth my time.”
I teared up over and over as each of the 67 reviews poured in. These
readers “got it,” but each in his or her own way. One even saw it as a
testament for abused women, because of what Carolina Slade overcomes in
her journey. Each reader saw what they loved in a good story, and
thanked me for writing this mystery for them, painting a protagonist
they would like.
That’s when it hit me.
When I finally decided to write a story that came from my core,
sculpting the characters, dialogue, setting, and plot from my
foundation, using the prime of my talents, I not only wrote my best, but
I wrote what’s best for every possible person out there.
It doesn’t matter if a town in some state, or a section of the country, or a demographic strata somewhere doesn’t “get it.”
When we splinter our skill in an effort to please all, we dilute it.
When we concentrate on using the individuality of our skills to their
utmost, pumping our guts into a project, we give it power. And that is
the ultimate legacy any writer, any creative spirit, can give the world.