Eva Marie Everson is the award-winning author of such works as Sex, Lies, and the Media, Shadow of Dreams, and The Potluck Club series. Her work, Reflections of God’s Holy Land; A Personal Journey Through Israel was a finalist for ECPA’s Medallion of Excellence award and is a finalist for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year (Travel Essays). Things Left Unspoken is the first in a new line of Southern Fiction from Eva Marie and Baker/Revell Publishing.
Welcome to Adulthood, Eva Marie
One of my favorite reads – an article really – is titled “We Are Writers” (although I’ve seen it printed as “Leaping and Posturing”) written by Margaret (Meg) Chittenden. Within this ode to the craft of writing are these words:
When you start writing, the advice you receive from books and articles and at writers’ conferences can be enormously helpful. However, it can also be confusing. I started writing in 1970. I was the most confused writer in the history of writing. I attended writers’ conferences and I came out by that same door wherein I went. One of the most confusing things I heard was “Write What You Know.” My problem was that I didn’t know anything.
Have you ever felt like this? Like you didn’t have a clue to who you are or what you are, and therefore feel as though you are giving no real value to the craft of writing?
The beginning of my writing career came in 1999 when Barbour Publishing (under the imprint Promise Press) published my first traditionally published work, True Love; Engaging Stories of Real Life Proposals. I knew very little about weddings and engagements and all that. My own marriage proposal consisted of my soon-to-be-husband, a hot dog at Hardees and me blurting out, “Why don’t we get married?”
I’d said those words before but to no avail. This time they hit fertile ground. A week (or maybe it was two) later and I was a married woman. So with that wealth of information added to my firm belief that the sweetest marriage proposal of all time was cried out in Gethsemane, I approached an editor with a gem of an idea.
Turns out, she’d walked down the aisle of her church not two weeks earlier.
Within a year I had written two books for Promise Press and was talking to my editor about the fact that in 1997 I had written a novel, a work of Southern Fiction I’d thought up after I asked myself the question, “How long has it been since you’ve tasted honeysuckle?”
Susan, my editor, wanted to see the manuscript. I sent it via email – in those days, via zip drive. A day later I emailed to see if she’d gotten the file. She replied, “Don’t bother me. I’m reading a really good manuscript right now.”
It was mine. [Insert very big grin here.]
I thought I’d hit my market. My niche, if you will. But God had other plans. I compiled three books. Wrote a few more nonfiction titles. Edited a number of works. Then, in about 2002, Linda Evans Shepherd called me with an idea for a novel she called The Potluck Club. Did I, she wanted to know, want to write it with her?
My initial response was no, not really. It wasn’t that I wasn’t intrigued. I was. But I was also tired from whirlwind traveling. In short: I was pooped. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to write this book with Linda. I called her back and we started plotting.
The premise of the storyline was simple enough: six friends living in the fictitious town of Summit View, CO. Of course what I knew about high country living (where Linda lives) one could put on the end of the proverbial pin. But I knew how to research and do it well, so I did.
I also threw in a character who was transplanted from Georgia. For fun, Linda threw in a character transplanted from Texas (like herself).
The Potluck Club was a wild success. Still is. It gave birth to other books: The Potluck Club Trouble’s Brewing, The Potluck Club Takes the Cake, The Potluck Catering Club The Secret’s in the Sauce, The Potluck Catering Club A Taste of Fame, and The Potluck Club Cookbook. In the process of all this writing and a few accolades along the way, I kept hearing a recurring theme: your character Goldie is among your best writing.
Goldie. My transplant from Georgia.
One day as I sat in front of my computer, swiveling back and forth in my oversized chair, I pondered what I wanted to be when I grew up. In other words: just what kind of writer did I want to be? I’d been reading some of Ann Tatlock’s work and found myself in a minor state of jealousy. Her writing went somewhere very deep, not just in place but in character. I decided then and there I wanted to be Ann Tatlock when I grew up.
Soon after, I came across the Margaret Chittenden article which I’d printed some time before and kept in a folder. I read, again, those lines about writing what you know. And for the first time in a while, my vision was clear.
I know the South.
I know Southern people. I know their nuances. I know their idiosyncrasies and their histories. I know they have five seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring, and football. Sometimes six and seven if you add baseball and basketball. I know that going to church is more than just a religion; it’s a social event. I know the value of family reunions. And handed down recipes. Of hunting and fishing with your daddy, no matter your sex. I know the strength of Southern women, their mantra being WWSD (What would Scarlett do?). I most certainly know the elements of Southern hospitality, that every Southern girl owns at least one of two things: 1) a deviled egg dish, and 2) a black dress to wear in case someone dies.
She most definitely owns a pair of heirloom pearls.
I know how to speak Southern. When Bucky Covington was sent home on American Idol, Ryan Seacrest asked how he felt about it. “Awww,” he said. “I don’ care. I juss wanna go home and petmahdawg.”
Ryan looked puzzled, but I understood every word the boy said.
I understand the difference in a good ole boy and a Southern gentleman.
I also know the history of my own people.
One gray February afternoon as I sat on the back patio of my Florida home (you have to go north to get south of here), I thought about the day my Uncle Jimmy was buried. It was also gray. It was cold. It snowed.
A minute later these words echoed in my head, “It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jimmy…” An idea was born on a first line. I bolted out of my chair, into the house, down the hall into my office. I slid into the oversize chair, pulled the keyboard to me, and began to write: It snowed the day we buried Uncle Jim. Not the kind of snow that flurries about your face or drives itself sideways, turning the world into a blinding sheet of white. This was angels dancing on air.
I saved the few lines and went on my merry way. But something kept nagging me … namely this “what do I want to be” question. Every time I saw the file labeled “Heels on Wood” (my working title), I would open it, read, add a few lines, some paragraphs. Pretty soon a story was forming … one based on an element of my family history. I kept at it, adding more of the story as time went on. Months passed. Two years of them. And then, one day, I said to my editor at Baker/Revell (who publishes the Potluck Club books) that I wanted to try my hand at writing Southern Fiction.
She liked what she heard. She also liked what she read. So I went home and started writing – seriously writing – on a story with no absolute plot. The plot formed though as my characters and I got to know each other better. I wrote. I rewrote. I edited and rewrote some more. Six months later, I turned in a finished work to my editor and started working on the next one.
My editor declared it to be very good. The marketing folks wanted to know who should endorse the book. “Ann Tatlock, for one,” I said. They agreed and sent her a copy. Ann wrote: A lovely and deeply moving story. I didn’t just read this story. I lived it!
I saw Ann last week at a writer’s conference. I greeted her with a hug as I said, “Ah, the lady who I want to be when I grow up.”
She replied, “If your writing in Things Left Unspoken is any indication, you’ve already grown up, Eva.”
Welcome to adulthood, Eva Marie.
Things Left Unspoken
by Eva Marie Everson
Jo-Lynn Hunter is at a crossroads in life when her great-aunt Stella insists that she return home to restore the old family manse in sleepy Cottonwood, Georgia. Jo-Lynn longs to get her teeth into a noteworthy and satisfying project. And it’s the perfect excuse for some therapeutic time away from her self-absorbed husband and his snobby Atlanta friends.
Beneath the dust and the peeling wallpaper, things are not what they seem, and what Jo-Lynn doesn’t know about her family holds just as many surprises. Was her great-grandfather the pillar of the community she thought he was? What is Aunt Stella hiding? And will her own marriage survive the renovation?
Jo-Lynn isn’t sure she wants to know the truth–but sometimes the truth has a way of making itself known.
I decided to post my review here instead of on Novel Reviews this time. I emailed Eva when I first started reading Things Left Unspoken, and she asked me what I thought of the book.
Reading it was like sitting down with a good friend, listening to her reveal a family secret. When I read what Ann Tatlock said that she didn’t read it but lived it, I thought that says it best.
Eva has a lyrical voice in writing, one that sings a haunting melody. You know the kind. They’re the ones that linger, playing through your mind. Things Left Unspoken and the characters within will remain with you long after you turn the last page.
As the blurb on the back of the book says: Every family–and every house–has its secrets, these secrets may just surprise you with unexpected twists. Eva Marie has indeed grown into adulthood, writing-wise. I’m looking forward to the next book in her Southern series.