Today, I had the pleasure of reading What We Most Want by William Kenower. It seemed like a sign for me to have stumbled upon this article, because I had no idea what I wanted to write this morning. And until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know I wanted to write Southern Literature either.
I dabbled in many genres. I wrote No Turning Back, a woman’s fiction, love triangle, with an unexpected ending. After writing that book, I wrote The Devil Within in about two weeks. After finishing The Devil Within, I felt like I couldn’t finish anything else. I wrote a Southern psychological thriller or coming-of-age or who-knows-what-genre-it-falls-into-because-I-hate-classification called Little Birdhouses. Then I toyed around with a story about swingers (I’ve since shelved this–thank God!). I started several nondescript manuscripts, but I couldn’t put myself into any of them and I didn’t know why.
About a week before I attended Midwest Writer’s, Anna Kate’s voice invaded my head and told me to write her story–the one I’ve been holding on to for fifteen years and is set in rural Alabama in the 1920’s. I finally felt ready to do her story justice–even though it’s truly a labor of love, with tons of research, because let’s face it: I’ve never been a tenant farmer’s daughter. At Midwest Writer’s, someone asked me what I wrote, and I had a sudden realization it was Southern Literature or Southern fiction, or whatever you want to call it. And it makes sense. Because it’s who I am and it’s what I want to write. We all know I love to write tragic stories and what better fodder for stories than the tumultuous South! I started writing what I wanted, and the words started flowing. Writing Southern fiction makes me happy and it made me LOVE my work, just like William Kenower said in his article. Be true to yourself.
About once a week, with my Writing Wenches, someone brings up that we should all just write about falling in love with your stepbrother, because these books do well. It’s tongue-in-cheek, because none of us are ready to sell out. The point being, you might make a ton of money doing that (doubtful, because writing to trend when you don’t love what you’re doing can make you burn out quickly), but you wouldn’t be happy. If you don’t write what you love then the words are just symbols on a page with no meaning. Your reader can pick up on your enthusiasm in your writing from the feeling and emotion that the words tend to take when you’re writing something you love. If you love writing step-brother romances then I say go for it!
As for me, I’ll take the inspiration I received from reading The Sound and the Fury, Cold Sassy Tree, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, and To Kill A Mockingbird (among thousands of other Southern novels I read), and I’ll write what I love.
What do you think? Do you write what you love? When you read a book, can you tell if the author was truly inspired and loved what he/she was doing?