I have always considered A Plot for Pridemore to be a Southern novel, even though the fictional town of Pridemore is set in Missouri. A lot of Southerners do not recognize Missouri as a part of the American South, and I can understand their feelings about that. A couple of years ago, when the University of Missouri’s athletic program joined the Southeastern Conference, a lot of SEC diehards took offense. I think some of them still do.
Missouri is one of those states that has a bit of an identity problem. It’s not quite the South, and it’s not completely Midwestern. St. Louis has the style and feel of an East Coast town, while Kansas City looks more toward the West. Springfield, Mo., is like an extension of Arkansas. Branson is its own island of patriotism, homespun values and camp, a sort of Las Vegas for Baptists. In terms of the state’s most famous residents, Mark Twain seems like a Southerner to me, while Harry Truman is staunchly Midwestern. Tennessee Williams was from St. Louis and a frat boy at Mizzou, but I feel like he should have been from Louisiana. Brad Pitt is from Missouri and so is Sheryl Crow, but they both live somewhere else now.
The state can’t even decide if it’s Democrat or Republican. Missouri’s perpetual swing-state status garners a lot of attention come election time, when it gets more visits from presidential candidates than most states not named Ohio or Florida.
Despite Missouri’s vague geography, I see the characters of Pridemore as very Southern in their values, quirks and stubborn sentimentality. Maybe it’s because I’m from Georgia, and I wanted to write the book with a Southern point of view. I don’t know.
This is all a roundabout way of saying that I am thrilled and very honored to be invited to a couple of great book conferences in the South this fall. The first one is the Southern Festival of Books on Oct. 10-12 in Nashville, which features readings and panel sessions with about 200 authors. The next stop is the Georgia Literary Festival on Nov. 7-9 in Augusta, which will feature Georgia authors like Terry Kay, Raymond Atkins and Philip Lee Williams. I do not know what I am scheduled to do at these conferences yet. I will share more details about them soon.
In the meantime, I am also doing a reading from Pridemore at 7 p.m. Friday, August 15 in Kansas City. I will be sharing the stage at The Writers Place with another Kansas City author, Catherine Anderson, and poet Alarie Tennille. It should be a wonderful evening event!