Friday, October 24, 2008

Writing Like a Woman

Readers sometimes ask me why I write from a woman’s point of view, the assumption apparently being that it’s an odd choice. To me it’s not odd at all. I grew up on a farm in Mississippi, an only child, with a mother who had four sisters and a father who had two. My paternal grandmother had a sister, and my paternal grandfather had three sisters. Then there are the in-laws… I spent a lot of time in my youth in the presence of these women. Usually I was in the corner reading a book, pretending not to be listening to what they were discussing. I learned a lot that way – particularly about the ways in which women interact with one another, what they talk about, and what is important to them.

When Wanda Nell Culpepper first introduced herself to me, I already knew her well. She’s very much like my late mother – stubborn, feisty, hard-working, loyal to family and friends. And she has a temper. Wanda Nell earns her living as a waitress in a small cafĂ©, the Kountry Kitchen, and she has another job during the night-time hours at Budget Mart. She has a family to take care of, and since her shiftless ex-husband, Bobby Ray, got murdered in the first book in the series, Flamingo Fatale, she doesn’t expect help from anyone else.

Writing about Wanda Nell, her family and friends, and the small town in Mississippi where she lives is like coming home for me. I grew up with these people, they’re my family, and I never have to stop to ask myself, what would Wanda Nell do in this situation? I just know. I know what my mother and her sisters or my dad’s sisters would do in a situation, or what my grandmothers or my great-aunts would do. You stick by your family, even when they’re dumber than a clod of dirt, and you help anyone who needs it. Those have been the themes of each book in the Trailer Park series. In the fifth book, Leftover Dead, due out in January 2009, Wanda Nell gets the chance to solve a thirty-one-year-old murder and achieve justice for a nameless young woman. I think my mother and all the aunts would approve.

Jimmie Ruth Evans

2 comments:

  1. Hi, Dean. Growing up in a family that was definitely not Southern, I find the Southern family structure fascinating. When I was dropped off at school as a college freshman, I got a pat on the arm and a kiss on the cheek. I could hear the horns blowing and see streamers flung out the car window as my parents drove away. Meanwhile, my very southern roommate was holding onto HER mother for dear life as they both sobbed hysterically. I thought they were both going to have to be hospitalized. I think the Wanda Nell books are a fascinating look at a family dynamic that so many of us have not had the pleasure of enjoying - that slap for sassing your mama and the hug and kisses for bringing her a dandelion. Thanks, Dean. The Wanda Nell books provide several hours of great reading and envy from those of us who never got to live with pink flamingos!

    (Hope this isn't duplicated. For some reason blog comments don't always make it from here in the Middle East, or they go though twice. Go Figure!)

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  2. Thanks, Jan. Southern mothers can be quite an experience, and as I mentioned in my blog post, Wanda Nell is based in some ways on my own mother. Our bond was strong, but there were times when she sure drove me crazy!

    I'm sure Miranda, in the books, knows exactly what I mean....

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