A common question for writers is "Where did you get the idea for your latest book?" Some writers cringe when they hear this question, because sometimes it's hard to say exactly where the inspiration for a book originates. A chance remark overheard in a crowded restaurant, a brief item on the evening news, an old story shared at a family reunion? There are so many potential sources for ideas for plots or characters. Sometimes they come from life experience... like having grown up in a small community or a small town. In my case, a small Southern community.
Southern towns like Athena, Mississippi, the town in my "Southern Ladies" and "Cat in the Stacks" series, are probably no different from towns in other regions in the U.S. They have a distinct social hierarchy – dominated by either (or both) the ancestral aristocracy or the families with the most money. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. Unless your family has lived in the town or its environs for at least three generations, you’re a newcomer. You don’t know why it’s always been done a certain way. And you may not have figured out all the nuances of hierarchy – like who will belong to certain organizations in town, who will get invited to important functions, who stands a chance of getting elected in local elections. If you can’t remember when John Henry Jones’ great-uncle Erasmus Smith was mayor and caused all that mess over the Rotary Club dinner sixty-seven years ago, well, you can’t really claim to be a native, now can you?
What’s really fun in these towns are the clubs, like the Junior League, the Garden Club, and the various men’s groups. Since I’m writing about two sisters from one of the original families in Athena (the Southern Ladies series), I decided to focus on one of the traditional women’s clubs you find in most towns, the garden club.
Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce, of course, are on the board – as they are on practically every board in Athena. Not everyone on the board has a similar pedigree, but they are women of position and some wealth. Every group has its own dynamics, and if something happens to upset the equilibrium, well, interesting things can happen.
Like having a prodigal son return – a prodigal son who was the most handsome, most charming, and most desired man in Athena forty years ago. What could possibly happen with this particular fox once more amidst the chickens? That was the inspiration for Digging Up the Dirt, the most recent book in the series. That was the basic idea for the book, and once I figured out who all the supporting characters were, I started writing and let the characters interact with one another.