Some of y’all know that I’ve been working on a book for awhile. It’s what I hope will become the Pretty Southern novel series.
For more than a decade, I’ve written tons of stories about the South. Y’all have come along for the ride here on the Pretty Southern blog, where we recently celebrated our 7th anniversary. Outside of the blogosphere and off social media, at home in Atlanta, on weekends and in the quiet of the night, I’ve been on this journey in a fictitious Pretty Southern world.
There’s this story that first popped in my head back in the spring of 2009, when Kevin (my husband) and I were driving home on I 75-North from seeing friends in Florida. We passed the sign for Magnolia Plantation, a roadside stand selling pecans, jams, and other Southern goods. Kevin and I had only been dating for a few months but we knew we wanted to get married (which happened in 2010). We also hadn’t launched Pretty Southern yet (that came in 2011) but I always knew I wanted to write a book.
I had this idea of a Southern bride who won her local beauty pageant, the title of Miss Magnolia.
The name of Miss Magnolia has changed over the years. This story has evolved in ways I never expected. It’s turned into a Pretty Southern universe with characters I feel like I know as well as my best friends and family.
Now it’s time to introduce them to the world. I can’t keep the Pretty Southern stories in my head any longer or else I really might go crazy.
My pal Bill Nussey knows the feeling. He put this fantastic quote from Winston Churchill in the acknowledgments for one of his books…
“Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, and then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him out to the public.”
That’s very much what this blog is about. I’ve crossed over from the other side of going mad to actually gettin’ this damn thing done. Because I can’t be afraid anymore about what people might say about this work. This is my story, a series of Pretty Southern stories, that I think some people might like and bring a bit of joy into the world.
With the Pretty Southern stories, I wanted to create plausible situations that could happen anywhere in the South, but I picked Atlanta because this place is my home.
As I drove through the streets of Buckhead, our city’s most prestigious neighborhood, passing houses that only the 1% can afford, I thought about what life would be like for the folks who lived in those magnificent homes.
It was one house in particular, behind a wrought iron gate, with a sweeping green lawn leading up to a large, three-story mansion made of white brick. This house had a big porch with Romanesque columns and white rocking chairs. Magnificent old magnolia trees bloomed in the front yard, with bright blue and purple hydrangea bushes lining a long driveway. Who would live in a house like that? What stories would she have to tell? Does she have secrets to be shared?
What came to fruition was the story of the Cunningham family. Caroline and Randy Cunningham are “Mama and Daddy” to three very pretty Southern girls: Macy, Kate, and Grace.
Macy Cunningham is the oldest daughter who won the title of Miss Magnolia her junior year at Magnolia Academy. Macy went on to win Miss Georgia when she was in college. She competed in the national pageant but didn’t even place. In her senior year, Macy decided to audition for the Rockettes in New York City. She made it and after graduating she moved to the Big Apple with one of her college sorority sisters. They’re out one night at a bar when Macy meets Campbell Boyd Brayden. She recognized him as the son of Georgia’s governor. Macy played it cool. Campbell asks for her number, and a year later Macy and Campbell are engaged and planning an elaborate wedding for 500 people at St. Simons Island.
That’s how all these stories come together with these characters’ lives intertwined leading up to the wedding of Macy and Campbell. I’ve already got about 70,000 words in the Pretty Southern Wedding book (which I’ll have to revise after all this is done), but I wanted to tell these characters stories first.
Why? Because I’ve fallen in love with them.
The Pretty Southern world includes Randy Cunningham’s younger brother, the girls’ Uncle Charley, Aunt Deidre (who dies from cancer), and their daughter, Autumn, the girls’ cousin who is also the best friend of Kate, the middle Cunningham daughter. We get to know the Cunningham’s grandma, Caroline’s mother, “Grand Mere” who lives in a big house in New Orleans, plus Macy’s best friends, her bridesmaids, all have their own stories, as well as Caroline’s best friend, Birdie, who hosts Macy’s bridal shower. The youngest Cunningham daughter, Grace, who is only seventeen, is also in love with Birdie’s son Wesley, the older boy next door.
Of course, there has to be a villain, Darius Youngblood V, Randy Cunningham’s best friend who ultimately leads to the family’s demise. That’s a whole other story that I’ve also written, but I’ve got to go in order here so y’all can follow along.
Names and places are purely coincidental. This is entirely a work of fiction, though the situations these characters find themselves in are drawn from the reality of these complicated times we live in.
I also wanted to show how Southern women, and men, are impacted by the patriarchal society of the South.
So here’s how you can read along with the Pretty Southern stories. There will be a bunch of individual blog posts published in the coming weeks each with a piece of the novel. The main characters will all be linked through #s. For example, if you want to specifically read Macy’s story about her meeting Campbell in New York, you can type #Macy #Campbell in the search bar in the upper righthand corner (coming soon).
In the bottom of each post will link to the other parts of the stories pertaining to these characters. I’ll also have a character index (or Table of Contents) so if you like one character in particular, you’ll be able to click and read all of their stories, once they’re published, of course.
The reason I’m publishing all of this on PrettySouthern.com first instead of doing Amazon Kindle is a) because I gotta get this shit done already and b) I want your feedback, reader! I want you to be honest about the stories you read. In a perfect world, I’d love to figure out how to do a television series about Pretty Southern because there is so much about this world to share and so many stories to tell.
If I want to make the world a better place, it starts by doing what I love which has always been writing. The first time I was published, I was only 6 years old. It was an apology letter from the Big Bad Wolf to the Three Little Pigs. Fast forward 26 years later and a lot of life in the South, and I’ve got my own fairy tales to share.
There’s more to come with the Pretty Southern stories. Read on to Meet The Cunninghams – Our Character Guide.