Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lessons Learned From Livin' Down South Welcomes Rachel Hauck!

Today on Words to Go, we’re chatting with Southern chick-lit novelist Rachel Hauck. Rachel pens stories to the tune of a hybrid or “blended” genre. She mixes chick-lit with romance; then throw in some Southern gentility and there you have Rachel Hauck.

PATTY: Welcome, Rachel, to Words to Go.

RACHEL: Thank you, Patty!

PATTY: You and I were recently discussing what it’s like living down South. It was one of those “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” conversations, wasn’t it?

RACHEL: Yes, there’s a certain boldness one gets from living in the South. That and weather plays into our choices a lot. Guess that’s why people like to talk about it so much.

PATTY: Yes, if you don’t like the weather down South, just wait—it’ll change.

RACHEL: Living in north Florida, just below the Georgia line, most of my growing up days were sunny and warm. My friends and I ventured out because, well, we could. No snow. No ice.

PATTY: Lived in St. Pete two years and can’t say I ever got stuck in a blizzard.

RACHEL: I graduated high school in December, so feeling I had free time to kill before college, I worked, slept and played. A girlfriend and I decided to go up to the southern coastal region several days a week to ride horses.

PATTY: College days, ah, the bliss of it all.

RACHEL: I loved horses, but knew nothing about them. I rode despite my ignorance.

PATTY: What is it about jumping on a strange, one ton, unpredictable animal with no forethought to the power beneath us that makes us do it?

RACHEL: Let’s just say my perception of riding a horse came from watching black and white reruns of Roy Rogers.

PATTY: Who? Just kidding. I was a huge fan of his wife Dale Evans’ books.

RACHEL: One day my horse decided she’d had enough plodding along the sandy Florida trail and turned toward the barn. I didn’t want to go to the barn, so I pulled the reigns to steer her back down the trail. Nothing doing. She went straight for a low tree branch and I went straight to the ground.

PATTY: Nice!

RACHEL: What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

PATTY: So they say.

RACHEL: I walked back to the barn and waited for my friend, but the next week, I was right back on the horse. We continued riding until I lost my contact lens while trying to remove dirt from my eye. There’s only so much “killing” a girl can take.

PATTY: Of course.

RACHEL: Years later, many years later, I told the story to some friend in my husband’s hearing. He stared at me. “You rode horses? Almost every day? For months?”

PATTY: They don’t listen.

RACHEL: I said, “Yeah, didn’t I tell you about it?”
“Hmm,” he said, shaking his head. “I’ve ridden horses with you and let’s just say, it’s not your strong suit.”

PATTY: Why must dh’s narrate?

RACHEL: Life sometimes knocks us off the ride. But the only way to grow and overcome is to pick ourselves up, dust the sand off our knees and go at it again. The South has a certain hope in the air. Like Scarlett said, “Tomorrow is another day.”

PATTY: The South does have its own virtues. That brings up the subject of what people like to call the Bible belt. What are the things about the South that you have allowed to inform your faith? What are the things you've decided not to carry?

RACHEL: I love that the culture of faith is so prevalent in the south. It’s evident in the clichéd but true notion of “southern hospitality.”

PATTY: That’s a repeating theme this week.

RACHEL: While writing Love Starts With Elle, set in the South Carolina lowcountry, the Yankee hero asked the southern heroine if she’ll watch his daughter for a weekend. She agrees. He assures her he’ll pay her for her time. She responds, “That’s not how we do things around here.”

PATTY: There you have it.

RACHEL: It’s true.

PATTY: What I love about writing southern lit are those nuances in our phraseology that are so distinctively Southern that it codifies the language. The reader reads our stories and they “get” that this is a Southern novel. But not overdone, like Hollywood typing, silly and filled up with dropped g’s or pho-net-ically spelled words. You have to have an ear for it, like a musician. But I agree with you, that the Southern culture is a high positive.

RACHEL: But there are negatives.

PATTY: Do tell.

RACHEL: The tradition of southern gossip or Sunday-only believers.

PATTY: Oh, ahem, that. Mary zeroed in on that yesterday.

RACHEL: I chose not to carry those elements with me. If I’m going to Believe, then I want to live it out every day.

PATTY: I'd like to point out that none of our guests are aware of the others' materials. The Spirit must have taken a-hold of our Words to Go this week. Rachel, how have you changed in your love for people here in the South?

RACHEL: I never really thought much about it until I was an adult. After graduating from college, I traveled through the South for my sorority. I began to see and appreciate the commonality of southern traditions, the deep conviction and beauty of the people. My first corporate job required a lot of travel. In four years I traveled to Europe twice, Australia twice, South America many times, Mexico and Canada, from Maine to California.
Coming home to Florida became a treasure of my heart. I’d leave a cold, wintry setting and fly into sunshine and balmy breezes.
I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the line I remember thinking, “There are no women like southern women. They are some of the most beautiful women on earth.”

PATTY: You will certainly get high marks for that statement. But it’s true. We kept begging a friend to come and visit us here in Lake Norman, that there was no place like it. He finally came and was dumbstruck by the beauty of the women here. Any parting thoughts, Rachel?

RACHEL: The world is changing, some for the good, some for the worse. But I hope the southerners hold onto their good traditions and faith. The worlds needs us.

PATTY: That’s so true. I’ve heard in my travels the occasional negative comment about the South, but it’s always by someone who hasn’t lived here among the people and drank in the beauty of our faith, deep, reflective intellect, and contentment with life. No wonder writing is a rich heritage here. Novelist Rachel Hauck on Words to Go and Lessons Learned from Livin’ Down South.

Rachel is donating two of her novels for Friday’s Big-haired Southern Book Give. Sweet Caroline and Love Starts With Elle are now in the give-away bonanza, so kindly leave your feedback, book-loving fans. Every post per day is entered in the Big Straw Hat for Friday’s drawing. Please remember to visit Saturday for the list of winners so Miz Patty won’t have to run you down.

Big-haired Southern Sister hugs.
Miz Patty