The Gilded Age of New York.
Suburban secrets among the picket-fence set.
An 1800’s shipwreck in the Carolinas carrying a famous daughter.
What do these topics have in common? They’re all subjects of new novels by Charlotte authors: the irrepressible, incredibly talented members of Authors out of Carolina, a local writer’s group. Imagine for a moment that you had to take these topics and spin them into hundreds of thousands of words in a way that manages not just to be coherent and plausible, but elegant and fascinating as well? Yeah, I know: most of us will stick to our day jobs. Luckily these ladies didn’t. I asked them to describe themselves, their latest books, and how they managed to join forces. Aspiring writers, take note! Meet some of the South’s best women’s fiction authors:
Joy Callaway is the author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society. Her love of storytelling is a direct result of her parents’ insistence that she read books or write stories instead of watching TV. Her interest in family history was fostered by her relatives’ habit of recounting tales of ancestors’ lives. Joy is a full-time mom and writer. She formerly served as a marketing director for a wealth management company. She holds a B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations from Marshall University and an M.M.C. in Mass Communication from the University of South Carolina. She resides in Charlotte, NC with her husband, John, and her children, Alevia and John.
Her book: Pitched by its publisher as Edith Wharton-meets-Little Women, The Fifth Avenue Artists Society is about a family of four artistic sisters living in genteel poverty on the outskirts of Gilded Age New York high society and centered on the oldest — an aspiring writer caught between the boy next door and a mysterious novelist who inducts her into Manhattan’s most elite artistic salon which has a seedy underbelly and secrets to hide.
On AOOC: It's amazing how writing brings people together. Writing books can be such a solitary practice, a lonely business, but then you meet another author or two and you're instantly in a sort of sorority. That's how Marybeth, Kim, Erika and I got around to forming Authors out of Carolina. Marybeth and I connected via Twitter, and realizing that we were both from Charlotte, decided to have coffee. We had an instant rapport and talked for hours about writing, publishing, our kids, etc. It was through this conversation that I realized she knew Kim Wright--I actually took a publication class from her back in the day--and Erika Marks. The four of us met up a few days later and realized that we all had books releasing in the summer. It only made sense to form a group, to have an excuse to tour around and hang out with our friends, our sisters in writing. This group means the world to me. These women inspire me, support me, and push me to be the best writer I can be. How blessed I am to have found myself in their company!
Visit her: JoyCallaway.com or buy The Fifth Avenue Artists Society HERE
Erika Marks has worked as a carpenter, an illustrator, an art director for a woodworking magazine, and a cake decorator on the winding road to publishing. A native New Englander, raised in Maine, she now lives and writes love stories set by the sea in North Carolina.
Her book: The Last Treasure comes ashore August 2. A present-day love story set in Wilmington and the Outer Banks, it features a love triangle of treasure hunters, and the real-life mystery of the schooner that was carrying Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia in 1813 when it disappeared off the Carolina coast without a trace.
On AOOC: Marybeth and I met on Twitter but—true story!—we had no idea we lived in the same state, let alone the same town, until we both ended up attending a mutual author friend’s event at Park Road Books! I never would have imagined the strong and precious community and support that has come out of that first meet-up—and resulted in Authors Out of Carolina. I feel so fortunate to know these ladies—as writers and, more importantly, as friends.
Visit her: http://www.erikamarksauthor.com or buy The Last Treasure HERE
Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is the author of The Things We Wish Were True and five previous novels. She speaks to women's groups around the US and is the co-founder of the popular women's fiction site, She Reads www.shereads.org. Marybeth and her husband Curt have been married for 25 years and are the parents of six children, ranging from young adult to elementary age. The family lives in North Carolina. Marybeth spends most of her time in the grocery store but occasionally escapes long enough to scribble some words. She is always at work on her next novel.
Her Book: The Things We Wish Were True. From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house.
Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts—until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel.
During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?
On AOOC: Sometimes we look at each other and marvel over how (and I hate this word because it is overly used, so bear with me) blessed we are to have found each other. We are friends first, with the central bond of all being in this writing boat together. Having someone who gets it is no small thing. Writing can be a lonely occupation so it's nice to know we are always there for each other. But then it went a step further and all of us have books out within the same three months! What are the odds? We decided it would be fun to band together and make a concerted effort out of our launches. We knew it would lighten the load and be tons more fun. And that has been true. Here's the best part-- we really, truly like each other. We support each other. When one of us took a spill on a bike recently within minutes the rest of us were texting saying, "What do you need?" "What can we do?" It's not just business, it's not just friendship. It's something else entirely-- something we treasure. That's what you do when you have something rare. You treasure it.
Visit Marybeth: www.marybethwhalen.com or buy The Things We Wish Were True HERE
Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, and The Canterbury Sisters. A two-time winner of the Lowell Thomas Award for travel writing, she has been writing about travel, food, and wine for more than twenty years for magazines such as Wine Spectator, Self, Travel & Leisure, and Vogue. She also ballroom dances competitively. Kim lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Her book: Last Ride to Graceland. Lauded for her “astute and engrossing” (People) writing style imbued with “originality galore” (RT Book Reviews), Kim Wright channels the best of Jennifer Weiner and Sarah Pekkanen in this delightful novel of self-discovery on the open road as one woman sets out for Graceland hoping to answer the question: Is Elvis Presley her father?
Blues musician Cory Ainsworth is barely scraping by after her mother’s death when she discovers a priceless piece of rock ‘n’ roll memorabilia hidden away in a shed out back of the family’s coastal South Carolina home: Elvis Presley’s Stutz Blackhawk, its interior a time capsule of the singer’s last day on earth.
A backup singer for the King, Cory’s mother Honey was at Graceland the day Elvis died. She quickly returned home to Beaufort and married her high school sweetheart. Yearning to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past—and possibly her own identity—Cory decides to drive the car back to Memphis and turn it over to Elvis’s estate, retracing the exact route her mother took thirty-seven years earlier. As she winds her way through the sprawling deep south with its quaint towns and long stretches of open road, the burning question in Cory’s mind—who is my father?—takes a backseat to the truth she learns about her complicated mother, the minister's daughter who spent a lifetime struggling to conceal the consequences of a single year of rebellion.
On AOOC: One of the few things I regret about my career as a writer - which has spanned over 30 years - is that I didn't make an effort to get to know other writers earlier. When I first started and I was a young mother writing nonfiction I felt very stranded. Like I was in the hinterlands of Charlotte, NC and I didn't know anyone else even remotely in the same boat. So I not only wrote alone, which you pretty much have to do, but then I also tried to build a career and figure out the business alone - and this is DEFINITELY not necessary!
When I started making writer friends at conferences and workshops it helped a lot but they were scattered all over the country so it was a lot of work to keep up with them. My two best writing friends were in Massachusetts and New Mexico and thus I saw them rarely. But the boom of social media changed everything. I used Facebook to reach out to other writers all over the place, which was important since by then I'd switched from nonfiction to fiction and I knew I needed to expand my tribe. But Facebook also showed me, to my surprise, there were lots of writers living in Charlotte. I found Marybeth first, and then Erika, and finally Joy and it's such an unexpected bonus that we all happen to have books coming out this summer. We can share our launch, travel together, go to conferences together - and all that saves money and makes the logistics easier - but the really wonderful part is that we can get together and bitch, I mean talk, about the business.
Writing is a screwy profession. Just the process of making a book is confounding then you add to that you have to find an agent and then a publisher and go through the editing process and then get out into the world and promote that book and it can easily feel overwhelming. You never get as much support and guidance from New York as you need. So having a cadre of writing friends to brainstorm and bounce ideas around....or to just cry on their shoulders when things get rough or celebrate when things go well...it makes all the difference. I feel incredibly lucky to have these women in my life.
Visit Kim: http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Kim-Wright/425737035 or buy The Last Ride to Graceland HERE
* Purchasing a book through the link provided will return 4%-10% of the purchase cost to the reviewer, which is then donated in full to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library Foundation. You can also can locate your local bookstore through indiebound.org.