At the end of 2017, Eva Marie Everson, the acquisitions editor of Firefly Southern Fiction, asked me if I’d be interested in writing a novella to contribute to a book titled, A Southern Season: Four Stories from a Front Porch Swing, scheduled for release in November 2018. At the time, I’d never tried my hand at writing a novella, and my novel, Mourning Dove, was scheduled for release in June of 2018. Thinking I’d be overwhelmed with my pending workload, I was hesitant to commit to the project, until I was given the project’s tempting guidelines: write any story you want to, as long as it’s set in the South during one of the four seasons. Right off the bat, I started thinking about the one season that bypasses California completely, and by this, I refer to the fall. I thought trying my hand at writing something I’d never attempted would be a great opportunity to stretch as a writer, and if you know anything about Southerners, you know they never tire of talking about the South. I said yes to Eva Marie, though at the time, I hadn’t arrived at my novella’s subject. But then kismet came into play when I got a phone call from a particular elderly gentleman in the Delta, who called to tell me about a mutual acquaintance of ours who had recently died. Our conversation was all over the place, beginning with how this person had died ( old age,) dovetailing into where the funeral would take place ( probably Memphis’s Independent Presbyterian Church,) who would, no doubt, attend ( everybody and their brother,) and which Memphis cemetery would serve as the final resting place (Elmwood, or Memorial Park.) Now then, I can only report that the way this particular Delta gentleman tells a story is so chock-full of laser-sharp cultural nuance that the second he got to his perfectly timed punchline ( though it was probably unbeknownst to him,) I knew I had the subject for my novella. Here is the gentleman’s artfully delivered line that spawned my novella:
“The one thing I know about a Southern funeral is something always goes wrong.”
I had a blast writing the novella I ultimately contributed to A Southern Season. I titled it Through an Autumn Window and set it during the three-day rites of a Memphis funeral, where not just one but many things go wrong. You’ll be happy to learn I hit the word count for the novella ( 20,000 words) right on its head. In Through an Autumn Window, I wrote about a long-festering, contentious dynamic between two siblings, even as both carried forth during their mother’s funeral trying to “do the right thing” in an effort at “keeping up appearances,” during their life-altering grief.
Here’s the good news: for the next five days, A Southern Season is free on Kindle. You can get it now by clicking on this link:https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07GDZ9WF5