I have a treat for you. The four authors of Among the Fair Magnolias were kind enough to allow me to do a group interview. What fun. These four authors joined together to compile a collection of southern novellas which you will love, you can almost smell fried chicken and pecan pie while you are reading it.
I’ll let them tell you more:
Tamera Alexander is a USA Today bestselling novelist whose works have been awarded and nominated for numerous industry-leading honors, including the Christy Award, the RITA Award, the Carol Award, the Maggie Award, the Booksellers Best Award, and Library Journal’s top distinction, among others. After seventeen years in Colorado, Tamera and her husband now reside in Nashville, Tennessee, where they live a short distance from Belmont Mansion and Belle Meade Plantation, the setting of Tamera’s two USA Today bestselling Southern series.
Dorothy Love is an award-winning author of numerous critically-acclaimed novels including her popular Hickory Ridge series set in her native Tennessee. She currently lives in the Texas hill country with her husband and their golden retriever. Her next novel, A Respectable Actress will be published in October.
Shelley Shepard Gray: Since 2000, Shelley has sold over forty novels to numerous publishers, including HarperCollins, Harlequin, and Abingdon Press. She has been interviewed by NPR, and her books have been highlighted in numerous publications, including USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.
Elizabeth Musser writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet—tool shed—outside Lyon, France. Elizabeth’s highly acclaimed, best-selling novel, The Swan House, was named one of Amazon’s Top Christian Books of the Year and one of Georgia’s Top Ten Novels of the Past 100 Years (Georgia Backroads, 2009). All of Elizabeth’s novels have been translated into multiple languages. Two Destinies, the final novel in The Secrets of the Cross trilogy, was a finalist for the 2013 Christy Award. For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook and Twitter.
Q: When you are writing, what treat do you like to keep you going?
Tamera: I love partially frozen Diet Dr. Pepper, but since I’m trying to cut down on the aspartame (I know, I know…) I’m drinking more iced tea sweetened with Stevia and lemon! Toss in a bag of Skinny Pop popcorn and I’m in writer heaven!
Dorothy: Give me a nice tall iced Chai Latte and I’m good to go.
Shelley: I drink coffee and iced tea. Probably too much of both! Luckily, I’m not too much of a snacker while I’m writing. I never want crumbs to get on my keyboard.
Elizabeth: English breakfast tea with a little milk, in the afternoon, Chai tea with a little milk; and always a little bit of dark chocolate!
Q: Tell us about why / how you chose the genre you write in and what about it appeals to you?
Tamera: A love of history and romance definitely influenced me to write historical fiction/romance. That, and the lingering image of Tom Selleck in leather chaps in Crossfire Trail.
Dorothy: My husband was a history major in college and during our frequent travels we stopped at hundreds of historical markers. I fell in love with history because of him. I enjoy digging through the historical records looking for clues to the lives of women of faith, courage, and determination who went before us. I love finding their stories and bringing them to life.
Shelley: I write inspirational romances, and this genre comes from my long love of romances. I used to read old Barbara Cartland paperbacks from our local library when I was a teenager. I’ve written romances for a number of publishers. Some have been secular, others inspirational. I started leaning toward inspirational romances when I yearned for my stories to have a little more heft than boy + girl = love. Most readers know my for my Amish romances. I live near an Amish community in Southern Ohio. But some readers might not realize that I grew up in Houston and spent most of my weekends on our ranch. Western romances are close to my heart.
Q:How did the collection come about and what did you enjoy most about putting it together?
Tamera: The project came about when my publisher and I were chatting about a potential “team idea,” and we instantly thought Southern novella collection. Writing with my fellow authors and friends was such a pleasure. And honor!
Elizabeth: I was actually doing research for a novel that takes place both in modern day and during the late 1800s and had studied a lot about Reconstruction in Georgia. When I was asked to contribute to ‘Among the Fair Magnolias’, inspired by my previous research, I wrote Love Beyond Limits, a story about a young Southern white woman whose courage and convictions lead her to fight for the rights of the freedmen.
Dorothy: I fell in love with Pawleys Island and the South Carolina Lowcountry while writing Carolina Gold. I’m fascinated by the history of the old rice plantations and by the lives of 19th century women who managed to accomplish so much despite the restrictions placed on them. My novella, A Heart So True, explores both the beauty of the Lowcountry and the difficult choice my character Abby Clayton faces in determining her own future, and it gives readers of Carolina Gold and The Bracelet a glimpse of their favorite characters from those books.
Shelley: Russell Champion, the hero in An Outlaw’s Heart, was featured in a series of westerns I wrote a few years ago for Abingdon Press. I jumped at the chance to finish his story.
Q: Where did the characters from your novella “Among the Fair Magnolias” come from or make themselves known to you?
Tamera: Savannah Darby is a character we first meet in To Win Her Favor, a Belle Meade Plantation novel. And I knew when writing that novel that Savannah had a deeper story to tell, and I’m grateful for the chance to tell her entire story in To Mend a Dream, my novella in the Among the Fair Magnolias collection.
Shelley: The characters in my novella, An Outlaw’s Heart, originated in a past western series. The books, A Texan’s Honor, and A Texan’s Choice both featured a secondary character named Russell who was young. All the readers ever know is that he joined an outlaw gang because his heart was broken. I couldn’t wait to finally tell his story!
Elizabeth: I was actually doing research for a novel, The Wren’s Nest, that takes place both in modern day and during the late 1800s and had studied a lot about Reconstruction in Georgia. As I researched the Reconstruction Period (1863-1877), particularly in Georgia, I was both saddened and intrigued. Saddened (really horrified) that the rights which were given to African Americans after the Civil War were soon revoked and that it took another hundred years for those rights to be granted. Intrigued that our great nation did indeed survive the aftermath of the Civil War, despite all odds, with two such diametrically opposing worldviews in the North and the South. When I was asked to contribute to ‘Among the Fair Magnolias’, inspired by my previous research, I wrote Love Beyond Limits, a story about a young Southern white woman, Emily Derracott, whose courage and convictions lead her to fight for the rights of the freedmen. The freedman, Leroy Eager, whom she is in love with is a character from my novel, The Wren’s Nest.
Q: Your characters in this collection go through a struggle, how did writing about their pain impact you as a writer?
Tamera: The Reconstruction era is a favorite era of mine to write about, and it actually reminds me of similar struggles we’re going through today, both as a nation and a world. Human nature hasn’t changed that much since the Garden of Eden, has it?
Elizabeth: Although I am from Atlanta and took plenty of history classes in high school and college, I did not remember the hope and horror of the Reconstruction period in Georgia, and was frankly embarrassed at my lack of knowledge as I began delving into this ‘parenthesis of freedom’ in the life of black Georgians. I hope the reader will become more aware, as I did while researching and writing Love Beyond Limits, of the challenges that faced the South after the Civil War, and especially see the courage of the freedmen and those who supported them. I pray we’ll be reminded again that all men are truly equal in God’s sight and ask the Lord to show us what part we are to play in the ongoing struggle for racial harmony.
Q: Please give me one fun fact about yourself.
Tamera: I’m a fierce baker at heart. Adore baking. Pies especially, but cakes too. So I do a lot of bake and take and have great neighbors who indulge me.
Dorothy: I’m native Southern girl, addicted to iced tea, Southern food, and most of all, the beach. My mother says I was born with sand between my toes.
Shelley: I am a huge fan of reality cooking shows on the Food Network. Happiness, for me, is watching a new episode of Chopped.
Elizabeth: I love scrapbooking and have over 50 scrapbooks; I started this hobby when I was 17, long before ‘scrapbooking’ became an official word!
Q: Is there anything you would like to include?
Tamera: Thanks, Melony. Appreciate you, babe, and your review of Among the Fair Magnolias.
Elizabeth: I often say that hearing from my readers is like receiving a huge hug from the Lord. Thank you, Melony, for this interview, and thank you, dear readers, for choosing to spend a little time Among the Fair Magnolias!
Shelley: Please visit my website, find me on facebook, facebook @shelley shepard gray, or on Twitter, @ShelleySGray