Carolyn Hart Talks About Summer Pleasures
Soft voices that croon words as if they were babies to be cosseted, smiling
faces that ease a day's tribulations better than any shot of whisky, a sense of
belonging that time or space or distance or loss can never destroy, a rueful yet
accepting certainty that the past is always prologue, these are the mainstays of
I grew up in Oklahoma which is not part of the Deep South, but it is very much a state with a deep Southern heritage. Being Southern is not so much a matter of geography as a matter of culture. My parents were both Texans and, as all Texans know, much of that grand and glorious state was settled by those who left the South after the War between the States. My Southern attitudes and sympathies had this beginning and I felt very much at home when I started vacationing in South Carolina's Low Country in the 1970s.
My sense of comfort with the Low Country was a major reason I decided to set a mystery series -- the "Death on Demand" books -- on a fictional sea island off the coast of South Carolina. And oh what a wonderful choice that turned out to be. It has given me a fabulous background for a series that now includes 14 titles.
The South teems with delightful possibilities for an author: buried treasure, passionate family quarrels, eccentricities that can amuse or terrify, hidden secrets, smuggling, small town rivalries, pride that begets violence, and, of course, all the kinds of troubles humans can devise whether they live in our South or in Southern Mongolia.
Southerners place a premium on gentility. What fun for a mystery author to ponder the pressures of conformity and how tamped down emotions can explode. I explored this them in Southern Ghost (1992). Underlying the passion is a Southern sense of honor and the desperation that comes from an unyielding social system.
Southern women have long been perceived as steel magnolia. Just such a woman is busy arranging the lives of those in her family until her own life is ended in Design For Murder (1987).
The South -- South Carolina especially -- is now a destination for retirees. The clash of cultures resulted in murder in Yankee Doodle Dead (1998).
Some of the books focus on the beauty of the Low Country. I love writing about great blue herons and sand crabs scrabbling in a marsh and the rumble of the surf. Every time I work on a book, I feel that I am there. I love Oklahoma, but it is hot and windy and dusty and the red dirt often as dry and bleak a cattle skull half-buried in an arid gully.
That's when I travel in my mind down gray sea island roads in the shade of towering live oaks, brush aside the dangling tendrils of Spanish moss, pause to watch a deer plunge through the woods, keep an eye out for that great blue heron, and marvel in the silkiness of the air and the moist humidity.
South Carolina here I come
Unless otherwise stated, this interview was conducted at the time the book was first published, and is reproduced with permission of the publisher. This interview may not be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the copyright holder.
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