Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guest Blogger Susan Wittig Albert


Meet the Darling Dahlias

I love launching a new series (for the record, this is number four, after China Bayles, the Robin Paige Victorian/Edwardian series, and the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter ). I love the excitement of exploring new settings, creating a new character ensemble, and embarking on new and different research. And I take a special delight in introducing a new series to readers.





So—meet the Darling Dahlias!

The Dahlias are a garden club, named for their founder, Mrs. Dahlia Blackstone, who recently died and left them her house and gardens. Darling is a small town in southern Alabama. The year is 1930, the first year of a challenging decade, and the Depression is already beginning to take its toll. In the first book, The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree, the town is fretting about the health of the Savings and Trust, the sheriff is hunting an escapee from the local prison farm, and cosmetics clerk Bunny Scott has turned up dead in a stolen car. But never mind: the Dahlias are on the case, with probate clerk Verna Tidwell, legal secretary and newspaper reporter Liz Lacy, and Ophelia Snow, the mayor’s wife, handling the investigations—with other Dahlias lending eager assistance.

The thing I’ve loved most about writing this series is the opportunity to read and research and think about the 1930s, an era that had a profound influence on my parents and grandparents. I have tried to include as period detail in the books as I could--clothing, furniture, cars and trucks, slang, music, the arts, the political environment--all the things that made the 1930s so unique. And there’s the Southern detail, too: regional dialects, regional cookery, Southern plants and gardens, and the lingering effects of the War Between the States and (sadly) of slavery.

As an added bonus for readers, I’ll be sharing my resources both in the series’ books and on the Dahlias’ website—where you’ll also find a map to the town, a collection of good Southern recipes, and (as time goes on) bits of 1930s’ history.

And speaking of series books, I’m happy to tell you that the second book is already finished! It’s called The Darling Dahlias and the Naked Ladies. It’s scheduled for publication in July 2011, with the third book (The Darling Dahlias and the Confederate Rose) planned for July 2012.

And just in case you’re wondering about my other work, here’s the scoop. The Tale of Oat Cake Crag, the seventh book in the eight-book Beatrix Potter’s Cottage Tales series, will be out in early September, 2010--at the same time that my newest nonfiction book, An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days, will appear. And China Bayles wants me to be sure and let you know that her series is continuing. The latest is Holly Blues ; the next, Mourning Gloria, #19, will be published in April, 2011.

Now it’s your turn! I’d love to hear from you and will be dropping in regularly over the next few days to respond to your questions and comments. As a special treat, we’ve set up a book drawing page where you can enter your name to win a signed copy of The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree. The drawing will close on Thursday, July 15 at noon, so click on over there now, before you forget!

18 comments:

Janece said...

I cannot wait to read this series! We have really loved the snippets of history you have shared on your Facebook page as you researched this book/series. Thank you!

susanalbert said...

I want to do more with that, Janece. Hoping (when I get a little more time) to post some of that material to the Dahlias' website. There's so much to learn about that period--which was close enough to us to affect us, through our parents' experience of it.--Susan

Pat Bean said...

Well I can see that the Darlia Dahlias are going to be added to my reading list. The characters sound like fantastic fun

Pat

Anonymous said...

Will you write any more of the Beatrice Potter eries? I love those.

I will be reading your new series too.

Helen Kiker
hdkiker@comcast.net

susanalbert said...

#7 (The Tale of Oat Cake Crag) will be out in early September, Helen. I'm planning to start writing #8 next week: The Tale of Castle Cottage. That will be the last book (the "wedding book") in the series. I love them, too--but I'm ready to move on to other things.

Eileen said...

Always enjoy your writings - great characters and fun stories and I love learn more about plants too.

susanalbert said...

Thanks, Eileen--I always learn more about plants, too! It's a pleasure to write books that teach me something I didn't know.

Pat Bean, thanks for dropping in. I like to think of you out there, living the RV life. I've opted for roots, but I do feel the lure of the road from time to time.

Dani Greer said...

The first book is so good! Rich with historic facts and great characters! And I wash my broom now. :) I never would have thought to do that, but it surely makes a difference. You have to read the book to find out what I'm talking about. LOL.

Dani
http://blogbooktours.blogspot.com

Rhonda said...

I've admired the photos along with the research tidbits you have shared with each of the series; you are truly dedicated to drawing us in and opening our minds.

Regina said...

Susan, I loved the way your weave story, herbs and recipes in the China Bayles mysteries. I look to reading your latest adventure in writing.
Tell me about the research you do for your series?

Lindy said...

I have loved and devoured every single "China" book. Am now looking forward to reading the "Darlings". Besides, I have to find out why I need to wash my broom :-D

Lindy - 109 in the Sonoran Desert

susanalbert said...

I love doing research--it teaches me so much. For the Dahlias series, I'm using online newspaper archives (that's why I can tell you what the groceries cost!), Wikipedia lists of period songs and films, and other online historical documents. For the book I just finished (#2 in the series), I even used IRS records (online) of Al Capone's tax evasion case! I use books, too, both secondary sources (books about the period) and books written during the period (Stars Fell on Alabama, for instance). One of my favorite sources: Sears Roebuck catalogs of the 1930s (I have two). Such fun to browse through them and marvel at the prices, the fabrics, the styles!

susanalbert said...

You wash your broom to keep it clean, Lindy. Old homemaking trick. :) The Dahlias have included a list of such goodies at the end of their book.

Judy Whelley said...

I love the Darling Dahlias; they're spunky women! You have really captured the feeling of a small town and I'm enjoying all the period detail. I especially enjoyed the reference to Nancy Drew :>) Keep 'em coming!

Judy Whelley

susanalbert said...

Thanks, Judy! My problem with this series is that I'm far more interested in characters, place, and period than I am in concocting a "mystery" plot. It's hard to come up with a "crime" that is likely to occur in a small town, and use amateurs to solve it realistically. My main beef with most cozies: the plots are artificially constructed on unrealistic criminal activity.

Linda said...

I am reading the Darling Dahlias now and it's such a treat! Each time I pick it up I am taken to a time and place where life was far removed from where I am now. The simple act of hanging a washbasin on a nail by the door reminded me of my grandma's house. It's hard to keep myself from devouring this one all at once - I want to make it last!

susanalbert said...

That's a great compliment, Linda--thank you! This is exactly what I love about this series, too: it allows me to revisit a time in my own life (mid-1940s) when I stayed with my grandparents on their rural MO farm. Grandma learned cooking/housekeeping in the 1890s and still practiced what she had learned, until electricity arrived and changed the way she cooked and cleaned. I still remember the sound of the aluminum dipper clanging against the white enamel water bucket. Lovely memories.

Christine Hammar said...

I think all your books contain some Tacit Knowledge, which will soon be lost, when the new generation takes the place of the one before.

Thank you for that!