Author Guest Post: Susan Gregg Gilmore“Apparently among those who consider their social standing some measure of importance, I am to be admired, for I am one of few Nashvillians who can claim with infallible certainty that a blood relation has lived in this town since its inception. My mother, although a Grove by marriage, never tired of sharing this piece of family trivia at cocktail parties or morning coffees, convinced that it elevated her position far beyond what her birth parents could have guaranteed. And whether she did exaggerate the details in the hopes of impressing her peers, the truth remains that a poor Carolina farmer did pack his bags some two hundred and fifty years ago and set out to cross the Appalachian Mountains, heading west with his young bride determined to claim a few acres of his own and a better life for his family. He probably didn’t have a penny to his name by the time he got to Fort Nashboro begging for a hot meal and a place to sleep, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the Grove family anymore.

Legend has it that when the Chickamauga Indians attacked the Nashville settlement, they killed my ancestral father as he fought to protect his beloved wife. She grabbed the musket from her dead husband’s hands and continued the fight, killing three Indian warriors herself. Then she fell on top of her husband’s cold, bloody body and held him in her arms throughout the night.

Her name was Bezellia Louise, and for generations since, the first girl born to a Grove has been named in her memory. Although most official historians dispute any claims of her heroics, my father donated thousands of dollars to the Nashville Historical Society with the belief that eventually some fresh, young academic would see the past more according to my family’s advantage. But fact or fiction, I believed in her courage and passion and have always been proud to share her name.

Sadly, the Bezellias birthed before me never cared for this designation, preferring a monosyllabic moniker – like Bee, Zee or Zell – to their formal Christian name. My own mother disliked the name so much that for years she refused to let it cross her lips, calling me only sister, a generic substitution that summed up her distaste for my name and her inadequate affection for me. I, on the other hand, always wanted to hear my name in its entirety, never caring what others thought of it.

I can almost always tell within a few pages of a novel about the “South” whether that particular writer is truly “Southern” or  someone who has simply taken a special interest in the culture of the South.  As many of my readers know I am a Southern girl born and raised so I take the literature of the South pretty seriously.  The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove is truly a Southern novel clearly written by a Southern writer with not only a working knowledge of the South but a great historical knowledge of the city of Nashville itself. Coincidentally I myself was born in Nashville ,TN and grew up about 45 minutes outside of Music City. This made Gilmore’s latest work even more special for me as I enjoyed learning about the Nashville of the past beyond it’s well known country music roots. Her coming of age novel of a young girl with a unique name and outlook on the world is a must read.  Susan Gregg Gilmore shines in her ability to be able to accurately portray the South in a warmhearted and loving manner while also building a novel that centers around some of the bigger controversies of this unique area of the United States.  Her ability to weave the charm of the South, it’s history and a wonderful character into a great novel is really magical. From the first few pages of this book I knew I would be hooked by her writing.

I have to admit I am probably a tougher critic than most when it comes to this genre. I am protective of my home and what it stands for.  I tend to able to sift through the stereotypes easily, there are those that are so true…well…we have to admit to them. Those that most outsiders think are true but are not representative of most of the South and then finally those that are downright disrespectful and “poke” fun at the South. To the “non-southerner” I think these often get confused. However Susan Gregg Gilmore shows she knows how to write a wonderful work of Southern Literature with that is both serious and light at heart.

So without further ado…please welcome Susan Gregg Gilmore to Stiletto Storytime:

“S tea, grits, monogrammed towels, old Baptist hymns, fried green tomatoes, country ham.  OK, just because I like all of these things that does make me Southern, more Southern than you perhaps, or at the very least Southern at heart?
Or, is “being Southern” strictly a geographical definition?  Were you born below the Mason-Dixon line or not?
For me, my “Southernness” is very much about birthplace.  I am, as they say, a daughter of the South, born and raised in the great state of Tennessee, the land of Davy Crockett and Dolly Parton.  But it’s also about more than that.  It’s about being the daughter of a mother whose ancestors were forced onto the Trail of Tears and a father whose relatives preached from a pulpit under a revival tent pitched by the side of calm Georgia stream.
Yes, loving the taste of hot buttered cornbread, catching lightning bugs on a summer evening, and singing the last stanza of “Just As I Am” four or five times on a Sunday morning are all a part of my experience, a part of my family’s tradition, my culture, my heritage.  Yes, being Southern is about place.  But you see, it’s more about honoring that place, its people, its customs, its foods, its language and beliefs.
When I moved to Washington, DC, at the age of 15, people made fun of my accent.  When I moved to Los Angeles at the age of 36, people made fun of my accent.  At 15, I felt embarrassed.  At 36, I felt proud.
I even remember a neighbor making a point of letting me know she didn’t care for Southern literature as if it was not as important as the works of fiction set in another region of the country.  Hmmm, I wondered if she was familiar with the works of Welty, Faulkner and O’Connor.  I come from a fertile land, I thought, known for its writers, its song writers and its produce.
So now when people ask me what makes fiction “Southern,” I say it is as much about place as anything else and all that place means.  And when they ask me if anyone can write Southern literature, even transplants.  I say “no.”  The South has to be a part of who you are, a part of every fiber of your being, that is what gives you the privilege of calling yourself a Southern writer.”

Book Giveaway

To win a copy of The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove by Susan Gregg Gilmore simply leave a comment below with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end  October 27, 2010 at midnight.  Winner will be chosen by and contacted by e-mail.
Also make sure and check out Susan Gregg Gilmore’s Southern Culinary Book Club.


Filed under Adult Books, Author Interviews & Posts, historical fiction, Southern Literature

19 responses to “Author Guest Post: Susan Gregg Gilmore

  1. Lovely post! I agree that the South is about culture more than geography. Susan will be in Greenville next Wednesday – you should come!

    • stilettostorytime

      Oh I would love to…will have to see if the husband is working though since I have little man! Have you read the book yet?

  2. Van

    Sounds like a great read!!!

  3. Sounds like a great read, thanks!

  4. PinkStuff28

    Enter me please..


  5. Norma

    Sounds great! Count me in please

  6. LAMusing

    I think being Southern is partly a state of mind 🙂 Pass the grits ya’ll.

  7. I grew up in the beautiful south, so I can somewhat relate to what the author says lol

    This book sounds lovely, please count me in and thank you so much! 🙂

  8. OHHHH I loved reading Bezillia. As was the case with her first book, the characters in this one are enchanting and delightful as is the story and the sriting and the cover – delightful

  9. debp

    This sounds like a really good book, I would enjoy reading it.

  10. I absolutely love novels about the south. What a great review!

  11. I’m sure it’s not an international giveaway, but since it doesn’t say so, I put my name down, just in case, just in case! (No worries if it’s US only, I do realize it’s not always possible to go int.)

  12. I have had this book on my TBR list for a while now. I would love to win a copy! My email is

  13. I have heard so much great buzz about this book! I agree that Southern literature is more about the culture of the South! And it’s always fun to read! I would love to read it! Winning it would be icing on the cake!

  14. This looks fantastic! please enter me =)

  15. Ruthie B

    Some of the best books are southern fiction but I’m not biased just because I live in NC! 😉
    Please enter me, thanks.

  16. Melissa R.

    I haven’t seen this book yet. I agree about the culture thing. Thanks for the chance!

  17. Arceli

    I would be very interested in reading a truly authentic Southern novel. Thank you for telling us about this one!


  18. stilettostorytime

    Congrats to….Debp! You have won your own copy of “The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove” by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Enjoy!

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