The first time I realized I wanted to write a book was when I read, John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Perhaps this is not the book that inspires great literature, but it is the book that inspired me. Berendt wrote about a South that I knew. Holy cow, I had a DNA connection to half the characters and I loved them all. But instead of writing a syrupy tongue-in-cheek cozy mystery, Berendt dug up the graves and hit some raw nerves. I thought it was great drama cushioned within the multi-layered flavors of Savannah.
The first time I realized I had a story to tell was the night I sat across from my uncle at a Seafood Buffet and he rested his head on the table and died. It wasn’t a particularly sad event. He’d lost his wife of sixty years a few weeks earlier and he had verbalized his readiness to join her. I was pleased he went so easily, surrounded by family and plates loaded with fried everything. But what amused me the most was my kinfolks’ efforts not to draw attention to his demise. A lengthy discussion developed about how to remove the body from the restaurant without disturbing other diners.
I won’t go into details. It didn’t end as well as we’d hoped. Someone else caught on to the fact that he was dead and blew the whole incident out of proportion. There were several Yankees in the restaurants, and, well, they simply didn’t understand Southern etiquette. At that very moment, however, I remember thinking I’ve got to write this down.
Writing about my eccentric and delightfully entertaining relatives does not, however, “move the heart,” as Roger Rosenblatt’s book so strongly points out. BUT, and this is a very pronounced “but,” it keeps the reader from closing the book on the part of the story that we simply don’t want to draw attention to or blow out of proportion. I’m a person who has had the fortune to know many good people throughout my lifetime. Good people are not without faults, and as much as we’d prefer to ignore them, poor choices can have lasting ramifications on others for generations to come. It’s taken me several years to put that into words, but for my first novel, The Quaker Cafe, I feel like I have. Within the multi-layered characters and humor, there lies drama that affects us all to this day.