The South: Full of People Since 1665

In my real life day job, I actually go to work sober. And by that I mean I’m sober when I get there. Luckily, I’m a full-time author and editor, so there’s nobody to answer to if I decide to have a few margaritas at lunch (hell, the martini lunch is practically a publishing industry cliche, only they did it with other people around and they stopped after the first couple).

But damn if my job isn’t driving me to drink.

The first OSHA-related drinking problem I developed was when I was writing one of my novels (shamelessly plugged HERE, you should totally buy it if you think Catcher in the Rye was stupid). I figured out I just couldn’t nail the main character’s voice without a few glasses of merlot. Shortly after finishing the book, I discovered that I really like merlot, so my next several books just kept that theme going.

But this time, I’m completely innocent of my latest drinking problem. People, I swear it’s your fault.

I edit and review books. People like to write books. People like to write books about the South. People who write books about the South often have NEVER BEEN THERE. And it’s destroying my liver because I can’t do this without drinking.

Let’s clear up something: I live in the South. I DO NOT HAVE AN ACCENT. I do not have a black housekeeper. I do not have a “charge card” at the local family-owned department store. I do shop at a family-owned grocery store, but the owner IS FROM INDIA. Note, not Indiana the state. India the country.

But I’ll be damned if every single newly published book I read that is set in the South, regardless of time period (including the future), doesn’t portray every single character from Mayberry.

Yes, we have a sheriff and many, many deputies. They all have college degrees, mostly in criminal justice.

Yes, it it possible to walk into a store, bank, or other place of business and NOT KNOW ANYONE. Please stop depicting scenes in which everybody knows everybody else the second they walk into the store, or they see someone stopped at a stop light and automatically know who that is.

Yes, I’m certain you can get your hair done in one of the three salons in our mall (yes, we have a mall) and STILL NOT KNOW ANYONE WITH HER HEAD UNDER ONE OF THE DRYERS.Please stop writing THIS scene in particular, because it’s just stupid.

Yes, we still have a main street running through town with lovely locally-owned businesses on either side. But wedged in between those businesses is a freakin’ Merill Lynch, a Starbucks, and a Mellow Mushroom pizza.

This is a real town, filled with real people, and real up-to-date amenities. Have I made myself clear?

I live in a town in the Deep South, and our town’s population hovers just over 18,000 people. We do not haul water from ANYWHERE. We do not have black housekeepers because they’re all a little busy running the school system or operating on their patients. We have an oddly inordinate number of Baptist churches, but guess what? We’ve got a lot of atheists, too. And while our churches do have church picnics from time to time, guess who else has a picnic? THE MOSQUE. They’ve got incredible egg salad at their annual fundraiser.

Authors, STOP it. Stop writing about the South as some throwback to Harper Lee’s day. VISIT, if that’s what it will take. Go to Atlanta and see it for yourself, if you can handle the traffic. Just stop trying to recreate The Help every time you sit down to write, because sadly, moonshine stills are also a thing of a bygone era (except in a couple of places, according to rumors) and I don’t have enough alcohol on hand to read your ridiculous depictions of my hometown.