Karen White grew up in London, but deep down she is a Southerner.
The author's parents are both Mississippi natives. The family traveled the world because of her father's work with Exxon. Summers were spent visiting relatives in a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta called Indianola. She didn't notice it at the time, but she was getting schooled in Southern life.
"It was like an anthropological study," she said. "I didn't really realize it until I started writing books."
White writes what she calls "grit lit," stories of Southern woman typically coming of age or at a crossroads in their lives. White is speaking at the University of South Carolina Beaufort's Lunch with Author series Thursday. The event is sold out.
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Her love of literature, particularly Southern literature, can be traced back to the time she skipped school in seventh grade to finish "Gone with the Wind." The life of heroine Scarlett O'Hara inspired her to conjure stories of her own. But, despite encouragement from teachers, her early attempts at writing only frustrating her.
She graduated from Tulane University with a management degree and got into the business world. Then she became a stay-at-home mom. She'd read during those few quiet moments that come with raising children. One day, she got inspired to write again. And it worked this time.
"In the Shadow of the Moon" came out in 2000. In the 13 years since, she's written 15 other novels. Recently, it's been multiple books a year. She just turned in the final edit of her first hardcover, "The Time Between." In April she's got the final installment of the Tradd Street series, a set of mysteries set in Charleston. Then, she'll have a summer reading-type novel due at the end of the year.
She's even re-rewritten two of her early novels, "Falling Home" and "After the Rain." The books had gone out of print and when the rights reverted back to her, her new publisher encouraged her to spruce them up and sell them again.
"I know I'm a better writer than what I was 10 years ago," said White, who lives in Atlanta. "So I just had to make the writing better. Plus, I had to take out all the silly things, like people using Walkmans."
White has been to the Lowcountry before to appear at the Lunch with Author series. She's set novels in Charleston and Edisto and Folly beaches. Someday, she might find a story in Beaufort or Hilton Head Island.
"I've always loved the Lowcountry," she said. "There might be a book in me set there. What I usually do is take some time, rent a home and spend a week absorbing the culture. I know, a real pain."