Anne River Siddons Biography
Anne River Siddons was born in 1936 in Fairburn, Georgia, a small railroad
town just south of Atlanta, where her family has lived for six generations. The
only child of a prestigious Atlanta lawyer and his wife, Siddons was raised to
be a perfect Southern belle. Growing up, she did what was expected of her:
getting straight A's, becoming head cheerleader, the homecoming queen, and then
Centennial Queen of Fairburn. At Auburn University she studied illustration,
joined the Tri-Delt sorority, and "did the things I thought I should. I
dated the right guys. I did the right activities," and wound up voted
"Loveliest of the Plains."
During her student years at Auburn, the Civil Rights Movement first gained
national attention, with the bus boycott in Montgomery and the integration of
the University of Alabama. Siddons was a columnist for the Auburn Plainsman
at the time, and she wrote, "an innocuous, almost sophomoric column"
welcoming integration. The school's administration requested she pull it, and
when she refused, they ran it with a disclaimer stating that the university did
not share her views. Because she was writing from the deep South, her column
gained instant national attention and caused quite "a fracas." When
she wrote a second, similarly-minded piece, she was fired. It was her first
taste of the power of the written word.
After graduation, she worked in the advertising department of a large bank,
doing layout and design. But she soon discovered her real talents lay in
writing, as she was frequently required to write copy for the advertisements.
"At Auburn, and before that when I wrote local columns for the Fairburn
paper, writing came so naturally that I didn't value it. I never even thought
that it might be a livelihood, or a source of great satisfaction. Southern
girls, remember, were taught to look for security."
She soon left the bank to join the staff of the recently founded Atlanta
magazine. Started by renowned mentor, Jim Townsend, the Atlanta came to
life in the 1960's, just as the city Atlanta was experiencing a rebirth. As one
of the magazine's first senior editors, Siddons remembers the job as being,
"one of the most electrifying things I have ever done in terms of sheer
joy." Her work at the magazine brought her in direct contact with the Civil
Rights Movement, often sitting with Dr. King's people at the then-black
restaurant Carrousel, listening to the best jazz the city had to offer. At age
30, she married Heyward Siddons, eleven years her senior, and the father of four
sons from a previous marriage.
Her writing career took its next leap when Larry Ashmead, then an editor at
Doubleday, noticed an article of hers and wrote to her asking if she would
consider doing a book. She assumed the letter was a prank, and that some of her
friends had stolen Doubleday stationary. When she didn't respond, Ashmead
tracked her down, and Siddons ended up with a two book contract: a collection of
essays which became John Chancellor Makes Me Cry, and a novel of her
college days, which became Heartbreak Hotel, and was later turned into a
film, Heart of Dixie, starring Ally Sheedy.
As Ashmead moved on, from Doubleday to Simon & Schuster, then to Harper
& Row, Siddons followed, writing a horror story, The House Next Door,
which Stephen King described as a prime example of "the new American
Gothic," and then Fox's Earth and Homeplace, about the loss
of a beloved home.
It was in 1988, with the publication of her fifth book, the best-selling Peachtree
Road, that Siddons graduated to real commercial success. Described by her
friend and peer, Pat Conroy, as "the Southern novel for our
generation." With almost a million copies in print, Peachtree Road
ushered Siddons onto the literary fast track. Since then the novels have been
coming steadily, about one each year, with her readership and writer's fees
increasing commensurately. In 1992 she received $3.25 million from HarperCollins
for a three book deal, and then, in 1994, HarperCollins gave Siddons $13 million
for a four book deal.
Siddons' success has naturally brought comparisons with another great
Southern writer, Margaret Mitchell, but Siddons insists that the South she
writes about is not the romanticized version found in Gone With the Wind.
Instead, her relationship with the South is loving, but realistic. "It's
like an old marriage or a long marriage. The commitment is absolute, but the
romance has long since worn off . . . I want to write about it as it really is:
I don't want to romanticize it."
She and her husband, Heyward, split their time between their homes in Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.
This biography was last updated on 09/19/2010.
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