If y’all haven’t heard of Hunter S. Jones, then check out her insane following on social media with 35,000 followers on Twitter, almost 12,000 likes on Facebook and hundreds of raving reviews on Goodreads. Pretty Southern recently sought out the acclaimed author to learn more about the secrets of her success and how she became the South’s self-publishing guru.
How did you discover your passion for writing?
I’ve always written something. It’s always been the thing I do. Some people play music, sing, dance, act, or paint. I have always been a writer.
What was the first thing you ever published?
In high school and college, I wrote for the schools papers. After graduating, I wrote for a couple of low budget rock papers in Nashville. It was great! I wrote various music and special interest stories for the Chattanooga newspaper. But, the first time someone sent a check to pay me was following an article I wrote for the Whitfield County, Ga., paper. I wrote a lovely article about the Rev. Howard Finster and Paradise Garden. “Serendipity in the Garden” was the articles name. I had no idea they were going to pay me for the story, so you can imagine how excited I was to receive a check from them. Getting paid for doing what you enjoy is such an incredible experience, isn’t it?
Did you study writing in college?
Yes, I studied creative writing but my emphasis was on English Literature.
Tell us about your Southern roots. You were born and raised in Tennessee, what brought you to Atlanta?
This is my second residency in Atlanta. The first one was in the early 1990s. It was awesome! I worked as a make-up artist. What fun to be young and around so many creative people. My late mother became ill, and I returned to Tennessee to be with the family. That’s when I entered corporate America. After spending 17 years in sales and marketing with an international corporation, I was downsized. My husband and I decided Atlanta offers more, took a gamble and moved here. We love Atlanta!
How would you define a Southerner in the 21st century?
Great question. There’s so much controversy about this topic right now, isn’t there? To me, it means family and our family’s history. Our farm has been in the family since Tennessee became a state. It gives a person a sense of place, a sense of belonging to something bigger than you. Right now is the greatest time to be a Southerner. Atlanta is the #11 financial power globally. We have opportunities never before offered to our region. It seems that we should stop looking to the past and look toward what the future holds for us. One of my grandfather’s was a coal-miner yet I’ve visited 63 countries around the globe. My husband is British. Life is nothing like it was for our parents and grandparents. Southerners have so many opportunities that haven’t been available before now.
We are the Newest New South and I believe it will be the best one yet.
What was the first book you self-published (September Ends, right)?
September Ends was released in 2013. You are absolutely correct. Thank you for that. Editor’s note – Hunter’s books also include September Again, September First, September Verses, Fortune Calling, and Tales From a New Amsterdam: Britain.
The Fortune Series by Hunter S. Jones
You have an amazing following on social media. How did you grow your “tribe”?
Having the blog on ExpatsPost.com helped immensely in getting my name, or brand, recognized. I started writing about unknown bands, or regionally known bands. I’ve worked with Fringe and off-Broadway theatre groups. Both of these added to the ‘Tribe’ as you call it. Really, social media is simply being social, isn’t it? If you are nice to everyone, they will be nice in return. I’ve always accepted friendship offers from anyone. There will always be people who want you to do everything for them, but I find that most people understand that art is a giving thing. The more you give, the more you get.
How did you get started on Goodreads and promote your presence there?
Another great question, Lauren. I do not know the exact answer to this. I opened an account on Goodreads, added all my Facebook and Twitter friends, and next thing you know, I’m at Goodreads friend limit. Goodreads is so complex. I mainly use it to find new books and rarely use it to sale or promote my own books.
How do you balance your sales work with your writing career?
Work is work and once business is completed, my mind is free to roam. I’m a great researcher, so often work breaks are used for research purposes. I carry a book bag with me at all times which is loaded with the core information I’m researching. My husband is very supportive. He says he can ‘see’ a change when I have connected with a story and he lets me write. How great is that? Although, I have been known to wake up, know the story is ready to be written and announce that I don’t want anyone bothering me until the story is completed. As my late mom used to say, “Writers aren’t the easiest people to live with.” I love that because it is so true.
Look for PHOENIX RISING, a fictional story of the last hour of Anne Boleyn’s life, now available on Amazon.
Reel Seafood, located in the heart of Main Street in Woodstock, is hosting an exclusive wine pairing dinner this Thursday, June 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. Executive Chef & proprietor David Silverman has five courses for the menu, each perfectly paired with a fabulous wine from from the Ferrari-Carano Winery. Here’s what’s on the menu:
1st Course – a Ceviche Martini prepared with Georgia White Shrimp, served with an avocado pozole and a crisp plantain, paired with a crisp 2012 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Grigio.
2nd course – an Heirloom Tomato Burrata Salad with a balsamic reduction, basil oil, and micro greens served with a 2013 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc.
3rd course – Braised Oxtails, served with a root vegetable ragout and a 2012 Ferrari-Carano Merlot.
4th course – the fish course will be a Pancetta Wrapped Halibut with herb garlic gnocchi in a truffle mushroom broth, paired with a 2013 Ferrari-Carano Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley.
5th course – for dessert, the Chef will create a Blood Orange Panna Cotta served with a 2013 Ferrari-Carano Eldorado Noir, also from the famous Russian River Valley.
RSVP Now for Reel Seafood’s Wine Dinner in Woodstock! This exclusive tasting is priced at $75 per person, not including tax and gratuity. Seating is limited, and reservations are highly recommended and can be made by calling Reel at 770-627-3006.
Reel is open for Lunch Monday through Saturday starting at 11:30 a.m.; Dinner is served seven days a week until 10 p.m., and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Brunch is served on Sundays from 10:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. For information about other upcoming events or reservations, please visit Reel’s website, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.
Reel is located at 8670 Main Street, Woodstock, GA.
When it comes to dining in the the South, it’s the Northern transplants who are shaping the restaurant scene. Perhaps chefs simply fall in love with the simple art of Southern food because they know of the bounty our land provides. Hugh Acheson knows this love to be true. A group of food bloggers recently gathered for brunch at Acheson’s first Atlanta restaurant, Empire State South (a post Civil War reference for Georgia becoming the cultural and economic hub) to discuss the importance of eating local. He explained that in New York City in order to “eat local” the restaurants ship in from farms six hours away whereas Atlantans eat local comes from farms that are within an hour of the city such as Riverview Farms in Hiawassee, Ga., and Crystal Organics in Newborn, Ga. It’s the amazing gift of a red clay landscape that gives us a plentiful bounty, but it’s up to us Southerners to support our land and its goodness.
“I can’t say enough nice things about the South and where its going.”
Acheson has truly seen the South transform over the past two decades, but don’t you dare call it The New South in his presence. “I hate that term,” he told our group who gathered to celebrate his new book, The Broad Fork. “Being in Georgia has meant a ton to me, and Atlanta has really come to terms with itself.” A native of Canada, Acheson moved to Atlanta at age 10 and spent two years in the South before moving back to Ottawa. In the 1990s, his wife was accepted to the University of Georgia (#GoDawgs) for her master’s program. He opened his first eatery, 5 & 10, in 2000. He now has three more restaurants in Georgia – The National in Athens, The Florence in Savannah, and of course Empire State South. His his fifth restaurant, Spiller Park – a “kiosk style” coffee shop will open in Atlanta’s new Ponce City Market later this year. Here’s what we had for brunch at Empire State South
French Toast with marshmallow cream and fresh berries.
Bacon, egg & cheese biscuit
Chicken sausage, egg & cheese biscuit. Y’all, these biscuits were so good I had buttery fingers.
Home fries – some of the best I’ve ever had
Homemade granola and local Georgia yogurt
Tomato & cucumber salad with feta and local greens
Marinated zucchini with spring onion and wheat berries
“You don’t go to your grave 6 ft. under complaining about the time you spent in the kitchen cooking. That’s the best time you’ll ever have – with your family, cooking from scratch.
Acheson says that dining out in Atlanta has turned into a “palpable” experience contrasting with the glossy and glamorous restaurant monikers which plagued the city during the 1990s. “No one really gave a shit about what was on their plate,” he said while touting the importance of dining local and being a patron of places who are “doing the right thing” from a sustainability perspective.
While he’s made his home in the South, Acheson lives a jet-setter lifestyle and joked about how he achieved his Diamond Medallion status on Delta. Although he’s achieved fame from Top Chef and is known as one of the South’s premier restaurateurs, Acheson says that success is not about becoming a celebrity chef but about operating a business where you’re leading people and playing an integral part of the community, “It’s your responsibility to give back, managing a staff who reveres you, and you being willing to do whatever it takes to deliver for them and your customers.”
It’s pretty cool because Acheson was in New York City filming the segment for Today Show with Carson Daly the Saturday morning before our brunch on Sunday.
Get ready to rock because Atlanta’s longest continually-operating restaurant, Pittypat’s Porch, is debuting its new porch during the first-ever Rock-a-Thon this Thursday, June 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. The event will feature a rocking chair musical chairs tournament and patio party benefiting the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Tournament rockers will compete in the signature jumbo rockers from presenting sponsor, the historic Brumby Chair Company, who is also donating one of the prized chairs as the grand raffle prize. Valued at $995, Brumby’s beloved chairs have been fixtures at national landmarks from Yellowstone National Park to Naples, Florida, including the White House! President Jimmy Carter was known to relax in a Brumby rocking chair.
Guests are invited to visit the newly-renovated restaurant and sit awhile on the brand new porch while imbibing in traditionally Southern libations and snacks – just as the restaurant’s namesake, Margaret Mitchell’s Aunt Pittypat from Gone with the Wind, would have.
Admission to the Rock-a-Thon includes two drinks tickets, to be redeemed for a mint julep crafted with Chattanooga Whiskey, a glass of wine, sponsored by United Distributors, Inc., or choice of beer each, a selection of fried green tomatoes, shrimp Charleston and black eyed pea cakes crafted by executive chef David Myree. A silent auction, also benefiting the Atlanta Community Food Bank, will include unique and historic items from across the city.
Kicks 101.5 will emcee the event and rocking chair tournament with a live remote from Pittypat’s rocking chair lounge. Tune into Kicks 101.5’s “Lunchtime Live with Jenn Hobby” over the next two weeks for a chance to win a $100 Pittypat’s Porch gift card to sweeten the deal!
Tickets may be purchased for $29 here. Additional raffle tickets may be purchased on-site for $5 each.
Blake Shelton at the inaugural Shaky Boots festival in Kennesaw.
The inaugural Shaky Boots festival rocked Kennesaw like no other music festival has in North Georgia ever before. There’s something about the South, in this blessed mountain area nestled among the pine trees, that welcomes one and all with open arms. For the brightest stars in country music – and a few rising stars too – for one weekend in May they called Kennesaw home. We certainly hope Shaky Boots will be a Southern staple for country music in the future.
These south Georgia girls at Shaky Boots are the definition of Pretty Southern.
I’m a Southern girl, born and bred south of the Mason Dixon line, and for almost 20 years I’ve called Georgia my home. When I first moved to Kennesaw in 1996, this place was the sticks. We had a mall, and a few grocery stores, but the closest WalMart was at least 20 minutes away. Now, according to Shaky Boots promotional team, Kennesaw is considered Atlanta…and I couldn’t be prouder. Kennesaw has truly come into its own, and Kennesaw State University has grown exponentially over the past two decades. Who would have thought that we would see dozens of country stars simultaneously perform this once tiny suburb of Atlanta?
The two days I spent covering the Shaky Boots were hands down the best time I’ve ever had in my hometown. It was pretty cool when folks asked me “Where ya from?” that I was able to say “Right down the road. I’m even crashing at my parents’ house for the weekend!” Lord knows it beats the pants off paying for a condo on the beach, or sweating your fanny off in a field somewhere, just for a music festival.
Here are a few highlights from the inaugural Shaky Boots Festival – Where Kennesaw meets Coachella.
When it comes to fashion statements expect everything in between. Sure there were plenty of jean shorts, American flag tank tops, and boots made in every form and fashion. But then there’s this…
Talk about Southern pride and country strong.
‘Merica. F*** Yeah. Yours truly with this awesome dude
Another great moment was getting to talk politics with Ketch Secor –the front man and founder of Old Crow Medicine Show. He has some profound and pragmatic views on the importance of legalizing gay marriage in the South. I reminded him that in Georgia we can’t even drink booze before 12:30 pm on Sunday – even at Shaky Boots – so it would be a long time coming before the fair state of Georgia would even give our brothers and sisters the right to say “I do.”
Your truly, Old Crow Medicine Show’s frontman Ketch Secor, and Katy Ruth Camp.
Now this is one festival highlight that might be on the Pretty Southern lifetime achievement list: shotgunning a beer with Eli Young Band. The group was in the media tent getting interviewed by Cody Alan from CMT Top 20. It started pouring down raining outside, and y’all know that in the South, when it rains, we pour. So, Jon Jones, James Young, and yours truly decided to shotgun a beer!
The guys told me this was one of the traditions they had on tour with Kenny Chesney.
Now let’s talk about the up-and-comers in country music. There’s a true rising star in Nashville, and it’s a constellation named John and Jacob. This fearsome group of five gentlemen are one of the best bands I’ve seen in a hot minute.
John Davidson and Jacob Bryant met in Birmingham when they were still in grade school and bonded over their passion for music. Fast forward to present day and they’ve added Jake Thrasher, Austin T. Smith and Trevor Davis to their band. They traversed Europe with The Band Perry and wrote the hit single Done. Their song “Be My Girl” was featured on the ABC hit Nashville. Check out our interview with them thanks to @Periscope
Another one of my new favorite country bands is The Railers. If you’ve never heard these fine folks perform then do it now.
Their tracks have lyrics that are so catchy, and their look is quintessential modern country. The Railers also definitely have my favorite quote for 2015:
“In the South, it’s not Koombaya, it’s Koom-ba-y’all!”
Honorable mention – and a giveaway!
Representing AT&T as a Digital Brand Ambassador was pretty awesome.
The kind folks at AT&T reached out to me to help represent their brand at the inaugural Shaky Boots Festival. They sent over this awesome AT&T survival kit which really came in handy during the festival, especially when the rain hit!
AT&T is also offering a giveaway! If you post a comment to this blog, you’ll be entered into our raffle for a free AT&T GoPhone.
Special thanks goes out to Mason Jar Media for their help coordinating the event coverage. We can’t wait for Shaky Boots 2016! Comment below for a chance to win an AT&T Go Phone!