Miss. authors to visit the delta
by Courtney Warren
Feb 15, 2014 | 3698 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From mysterious killers to evil spirits, the Delta State University Continuing Education program and the Delta Arts Alliance are welcoming three Mississippi authors who highlight the South and the Mississippi Delta in their writing.

Charlaine Harris, Dean James, and Carolyn Haines will be on campus Feb. 28 and provide lectures to students at 9 and 10 a.m. in Jobe Hall.

From 1-2:30 p.m., they will participate in a panel discussion with three Delta State professors— Dorothy Shawhan, Susan Allen Ford and Karen Bell.

Later that afternoon, a book signing and reception will be held at the Delta Arts Alliance in downtown Cleveland from 3-5 p.m. In addition, students, faculty and staff will be able to donate blood at the “True Blood” Drive at the H.L. Nowell Union from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Delta State University President Bill LaForge believes this will be a great event for the campus and said, “It is a banner day for Delta State to have three noted authors visit our campus to share time, stories, and experiences with our students and faculty.  These distinguished writers honor us by engaging with our students at a level that will influence and inspire ideas and careers.  I am very grateful to our special guests for coming to Delta State.  It is yet another grand opportunity for our students and faculty to 'rub elbows with the pros.'"

Harris, a New York Times bestselling author and writer of the "The Sookie Stackhouse Series" will be presenting her newest book, "Cemetery Girl: Book One, The Pretenders," the first installment in a three book series of graphic novels.

"Cemetery Girl" is the story of Calexa Rose Dunhill, who woke up in a cemetery and has no memory of who she is. Taking her name from the graves she is surrounded by and from the cemetery itself, Calexa searches for answers on who she is, how she got there, or who left her for dead.

This was a new writing experience for Harris and when asked about the difficulties in regards to creating a story without a narrator to explain what each character was experiencing, Harris said, "It was really difficult to learn to adapt my writing to what Don Kramer could draw. But that's the key to writing a graphic novel. It's not necessarily more difficult unless you're in a rut, and I found I had been. It's another way of getting the story told, relying on two different mediums, the words and the pictures, instead of just the words."

To create the book, Harris worked with other authors, illustrators, and colorists.

She described that process by saying, "Chris Golden and I have been friends for several years, and I knew he was the perfect person to help me learn this new way of writing. We looked at lots and lots of artists before we decided Don would be perfect, and we were lucky enough to catch him at a moment when he was free. I think Danielle Rudoni was his choice for colorist, because I know nothing about that process at all, and I love the job she's done."

In the back of "Cemetery Girl" there is a section that shows how the graphic novel is written and what notes are creating to convey to illustrators how characters should look.

"First, you write out a condensed version of the story you're going to tell. Then, you break it down scene-by-scene, elaborating and fine-tuning as you go. Then, you begin writing in the graphic novel format, which is geared to letting the artist know what you want to see when the work is drawn, and the mood you want to convey. With a regular novel, the writer doesn't have to let any other artist know what her intentions are; only the reader needs to understand, and that can be at a more leisurely pace," said Harris.

Harris said she looks forward to the event and added, "I'm looking forward to spending time with my friends, Dean James and Carolyn Haines, and it will interesting to revisit the place where I lived for a couple of years. I'm originally from Tunica, so the Delta is home to me."

Dean James, a double alumnus of Delta State ’80 and ’81 and the author of over 20 books, will be promoting his new book "The Silence of the Library" written under the pseudonym Miranda James.

"The Silence in the Library" is the fifth books in "The Cat in the Stacks Series" and is about the town librarian Charlie Harris, and his Maine coon cat Diesel.

During National Library Week the library plans an exhibit to honor the centenary of famous novelist Electra Barnes Cartwright—creator of the beloved Veronica Thane series.

Charlie, who admires Cartwright and has a collection of her books, is excited to meet her and learns that she will be making a very rare public appearance.

The news of her appearance goes viral and soon collectors are swarming the small town.

A rumor begins that there are unpublished Veronica Thane novels and Charlie soon realizes these collectors will stop at nothing—even murder—the get what they want.

"I start with the characters and a basic situation. I think about the story I

want to tell and then think of the characters I need to tell that story. Who

might these secondary characters be? What motivates them? Which one of them

is going to be desperate enough to kill? And why? Then I start writing, and

the story and the characters develop from there. Around the mid-point of the

book I will often stop and think about what needs to happen the rest of the

way to get to the ending, where All Is Revealed. I will jot down plot points

on notecards, and then shuffle them into a sequence that looks logical. That

serves as the roadmap for the rest of the book," James said of his writing process.

Within "The Silence of the Library" James creates a Veronica Thane story that Charlie reads throughout the plot.

When asked how he creates a story within and story and whether or not he ever gets the two mixed up, James said, "I wrote the Veronica Thane excerpts as I was writing the main part of the book. It wasn't hard to keep the two separate because the Veronica excerpts are in such a different style. I deliberately imitated the style of juvenile mysteries from the 1930s, with the somewhat florid prose they often had. It

was a lot of fun."

Throughout the story Charlie mentions several authors and books he enjoys, when asked about these titles, James said, "Whenever I mention a writer in the book, it is because I admire that writer's work. Charlie and I have the same taste in reading."

James explained his first big break came when he and a friend sold a non-fiction book on women mystery writers in 1992 at Berkley, which was the beginning of an association that lasted for 22 years.

He said his second biggest break came in 2009.

"My editor at Berkley, Michelle Vega, asked me if I would be interested in writing a series about a librarian and a cat. Since I was a librarian with a couple of cats, it seemed only natural. Charlie and Diesel first appeared in August 2010, and the series was an immediate hit, landing in the extended New York Times bestseller list. The new book debuts at #8 on the bestseller list for mass market paperbacks on the February 16th list.

Truly a dream come true," James said.

Carolyn Haines, author of the “Sarah Booth Delaney Series" and professor at the University of South Alabama, will be promoting her new book "The Seeker," written under pseudonym R.B. Chesterton.

"The Seeker" tells the story of a young graduate student, Aine Cahill, who travels to Walden Pond to work on her dissertation to prove her aunt Bonnie was the lover of Henry David Thoreau during his supposed solitary time at Walden Pond. Upon arrival, Aine's cursed family past comes back to haunt her and she must fight to hold on to reality while the spiritual world and her sinister legacy attempt to take over her life. Lastly, she must discover whether or not there really is a young girl lurking in the woods surrounding her cabin.

Haines' collection of books cover dark and light material so when asked what made her choose to write dark she said, "I am a dark reader, for the most part. I grew up in a haunted house, and my mother and grandmother were wonderful storytellers. We would all gather up in Grandma's room and Mama and Grandma would have all of us kids (there were 3) shivering under the covers. I was a huge Poe reader as a young person, and a ghost story or haunted house is irresistible to me. But I also love humor--and while I am terrible about scaring people, I am equally bad about playing practical jokes to make people laugh. So I think it's only natural that I enjoy both humor and fun and a little walk on the dark side now and again. My writing simply reflects my personal preferences, and I also believe that by allowing my creativity to run rampant, I keep myself fresh as a writer. If I could only write one kind of story each time, I'm afraid I would grow stale and boring."

Haines admits when writing this scary story and writing other scary stories that she has scared herself.

"Yes, I have to admit that I scare myself badly. I have called on my neighbors at times to come over and have a drink--and then I get them to check the closets and around the house to be sure no one (or no thing) is out there. They all laugh and everyone on my road knows I'm that crazy writer who has a hundred animals and scares herself. It's okay. I'm a little eccentric. (If I had more money I could be MORE eccentric.) There's no harm in that."

When asked about her writing process Haines said she writes every day, whether the writing is good or bad.

"I write every day. Every day. Without exception. Sometimes what I write isn't very good, but I write. And I try to honor the story and let it be what it is. I'm acutely aware of structure and plot, but I don't try to dictate the story. I try to shape what I'm given. I've written in a lot of genres. I don't judge the story--I just do my best to tell it," she explained.

Haines added that she looks forward to her visit to the Delta and is proud to call Harris and James friends.

Once the authors are finished with the panel discussion at Delta State, they will venture over to the Ellis Theatre for a book signing, which Rori Herbison DAA executive director is very excited about.

"This is a great event and we are thrilled to be included in the partnership. The Delta Arts Alliance is committed to advancing the arts and that extends to all mediums. The literary arts share an equally rich history in our region, and this event is proof to that deep talent this state produces. When we were first approached by the Continuing Education department with the event details, we instantly knew we have to extent the showing of our current exhibit—The Antiquarian Photography Show. We have 13 photographers from across the country on display, and many of their subject matters are natural tie-ins to the work of the three great mystery writers we will be welcoming. I encourage everyone to find a few minutes in their day to share time with Charlaine, Dean, and Carolyn," said Herbison.

"Cemetery Girl," "The Silence of the Library," and "The Seeker" can be purchased at Cotton Row Bookstore in downtown Cleveland and will also be available at the Delta Arts Alliance the day of the signing.