I’m excited to introduce this month’s guest, T.I. Lowe. T.I. is something of a unicorn in publishing… her novel, Lulu’s Cafe, went on to sell over 100,000 copies! She’s back with the first volume of her new Carolina Coast series, Beach Haven…whose cover pretty much guaranteed I would read the book even before I read the back cover copy. Join me as T.I. talks about the southern roots behind her fiction. And be sure to read to the end to win your own copy of Beach Haven!
My Southern Roots of Storytelling, by T.I. Lowe
Growing up in rural South Carolina during a time when there were more dirt roads than paved, my writing roots were cultivated in the fertile soil of Southern storytelling. Weathered farmers, crazy great-uncles, and wise grannies were a few of the schoolmasters. I earned my education within the walls of a clapboard gas station heavily scented with the aroma of boiled peanuts, on a front porch lined with pink azalea bushes, in a tobacco field in the middle of summer, and during social gatherings at the church fellowship hall where a mighty feast always added seasoning to the curriculum.
Some of the liveliest lessons came from a group of men who claimed the front corner of that old gas station and were led by an old man wearing dingy overalls and a mischievous gleam in his eyes. There was always a chaw of tobacco poking out his whiskered cheek, but it never slowed the telling of the tale any more than his Southern drawl already did. From his perch on a wooden stool, he shared yarns about battling rabid animals or ghostly encounters or folklore or whatever subject he got a wild hair to yammer about with the circle of listeners. Neither Moon Pie wrappers crinkling nor the bell over the door jangling slowed the man’s animated prattling as he tossed in embellishments and truth-stretchers to liven up the account. Sure, most knew the rascal was spinning out a mostly fictitious tale, but it didn’t deter them from leaning closer to catch every fabricated detail.
Why? Because it was entertainment at its finest.
Us Southerners tend to gild the lily when it comes to storytelling, but the story will be so compelling that it won’t matter how often a root of the historical recollecting is twisted a little to produce a new shoot in the tale.
I approach my writing in much the same manner as pioneers of Southern storytelling have done for generations before me. I want to emulate that old farmer at the gas station who knew how to capture the imagination of those around him with outlandish yarns not easily forgotten. I want to reflect the wisdom of my grandma in her floral housecoat and rolled-down knee-highs with a glass of iced tea in hand, rocking in her favorite chair while telling us how her kinfolk would caravan to the coast to fish and dig for clams and how they had to make do with a three-wheel horse cart to get back inland one time. These schoolmasters made me fall in love with the gift of story so well-crafted that it pulls readers in to grow a sit and ponder the tale for a spell.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an articulate novelist, but I consider it an honor each time a blogger or reading fan refers to me as a Southern storyteller. I value having an authentic voice unique to my stories. All authors, Southern or not, should find and cultivate their unique voice to help set themselves apart. Blending in is boring, if you ask me. I never want to settle for telling a story simply to hear my own Southern inflection. My goal is to be sensational enough to pull a reaction out of the recipient of my tale, hoping that they experience the words with their soul.
At the end of the story, if I’ve poured my heart into it and given my very best to my readers, then the need to apologize will never arise. I say to all authors, Own your voice and make no excuses for being your authentic, unique self. It’s okay not to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are genuine, then your reading tribe will find you!
Bestselling author T. I. Lowe sees herself as an ordinary country girl who loves to tell extraordinary stories. She knows she’s just getting started and has many more stories to tell. A wife and mother who’s active in her church community, she resides in coastal South Carolina with her family.
For a complete list of Lowe’s published books, biography, upcoming events, and other information, visit tilowe.com, and be sure to check out her blog, Coffee Cup, while you’re there!