June 15, 2009
A Chat with Author Susan Rebecca White
Susan Rebecca White, who recently launched her book Bound South recently came to our San Francisco book group. Afterwards, we decided to sit down and do a little Q&A about her book, her writing and her thoughts about blogging.
Publisher's Weekly on Bound Sound: "White's wit and graceful prose yield sharp insights about family, friendship and faith."
Q: What is the impact of blogging on book marketing?
A: I am never sure how effective my blog is in helping spread the word about Bound South. With so many blogs out there-how does mine get noticed? And who notices it? Maybe the stars will align and one day some big influential source will pick up an entry I write, but maybe not. I don't think you can count on it, but I do send out little messages and hope somewhere out there other people are noticing.
On that note, I've had a number of readers I've met at book festivals and signings tell me that they do visit my blog, that they like seeing pics of my front yard garden, that they wonder whether or not I named my dog (Raney) after Clyde Edgerton's title character. (I did.) And I love being able to give readers a little more about me-to chat about my garden, my animals, what I'm cooking that day.
Another thing that I love about blogging is that I can choose to promote whomever I want. My endorsement doesn't have the same impact as, say, Oprah's, but I can decide, hey, I love this author, or this movie, or whatever, and I can blog about it. I don't have to ask for anyone's permission. I don't have to pitch the story. I just do it.
Q: What are other things you have done to promote your book? Do you have a publicist? How much of publicity does your publishing house handle, and how much do you handle?
A: I have a great publicist and she pitches stories to different media folk, and sets up my big ol' tour schedule. She gets the book attention that I could never garner. And then I take what she gives me and try to squeeze all I can out of it.
For example, she helped me set up my launch event at the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta. This is one of the premier event centers in the city, centrally located, historic, beautiful, classy (I can't say "classy" without thinking of Donald Trump!) But knowing that even I, an author, resist going to book readings (on week nights I tend to want to nest at home), I decided to put a lot of energy into "selling" the event to people.
Q: Let's talk some about the book itself. One thing that really stood out to me about Bound South is how you managed to portray such different women from such different backgrounds, all from the first person point of view. Can you talk a little about how you think you were able to do that?
A: I once had a teacher tell me that I was always going to be someone who could cross borders, and kind-of-sort-of fit into all different sorts of cultures than my own. (And maybe that's because I'd be hard pressed to say what my own culture is, exactly.)
This probably has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up in a really strange family.
Though my parents were hometown sweethearts, they each married other people before marrying each other. My dad had three kids in his first marriage; my mom had two kids in hers. Then they married each other and had me. So I had five siblings, two of who lived in the same house with me (my mom's biological kids), and the other three who lived primarily with their mom.
Those siblings grew up way more religious than we did, going to a church where the Bible was believed to be inerrant and people sometimes spoke in tongues. They lived in the suburbs, while we lived in this very ritzy "intown" neighborhood. They went to public school while we went to private.
My parents pretty much always voted Democrat, where their mom and stepdad were very conservative. So just within my immediate family there was practically a red state/ blue state divide. I guess this is all to say it's hard to develop an "us vs. them" mentality when your immediate family is composed of "us vs. thems."
Q: Bound South is primarily set in Atlanta, where you grew up and where you now live. But you wrote most of the novel while in graduate school in Roanoke, VA, and then later while living in San Francisco. How do you think living away from Atlanta affected how you wrote about Atlanta? Do you think you would portray Atlanta in the same way if you were to write about it now, while you are living there?
A: Distance helped me write about Atlanta, definitely. It's easier to encapsulate a place when you aren't right up in it. It's the difference between taking a picture of Earth from the sky versus trying to take it on the ground.
I was actively missing Atlanta when I wrote about it, and some of my yearning and deep affection for the city came across in the writing. But now that I live here-in some ways I'm harder on the city. I love it-but I'm now intimately aware of its limitations and weaknesses. It's kind of like the difference between pining for an old boyfriend and actually marrying that boyfriend and living with him day to day.
Q: Have you encountered any nice surprises about Atlanta since you've returned?
A: Absolutely! The food here rivals San Francisco's. I am not kidding. There is this new restaurant, Cakes and Ale, which makes me glad to be in Atlanta every time I go to it. (The restaurant is actually in Decatur, Atlanta's sister city. Decatur is to Atlanta what Berkeley is to San Francisco.)
And I love spring in Atlanta. Everything is so green, so flagrant, you feel as if you are in the Garden of Eden, except you have to weed.
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