7 Charlotte authors on how the city shapes their work
There are plenty of local authors worthy of a spot on your TBR (“to be read”) pile.
Here, a handful of them reflect on how Charlotte has shaped their work.
- Of note: Some of these responses have been edited for brevity.
Who she is: An MIT grad, former high school science teacher, and New York Times bestseller.
What she writes: Deliciously creepy suspense novels, including “All The Missing Girls,” “The Last House Guest (a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick) and “The Last to Vanish.” Her fifteenth book, “Daughter Of Mine,” is due out in April.
How Charlotte has influenced her work: “A lot of my characters have their home base in Charlotte. With “The Last To Vanish,” I was inspired by the nature here. I was on the greenway by my house in Davidson. It had just stopped raining, but I could still hear it. I got this sense of a woman living in the woods and hearing echoes of her past coming back. That inspired the whole idea.”
The best way to support local authors: “Talk about the books you’ve read and loved to other people. I find out about a lot of books that way myself.”
A book she’d recommend: “Blood Sisters” by Vanessa Lillie.
Who she is: A Charlotte native and Garinger High School grad who spent 15 years as an accountant before becoming an author.
What she writes: Books geared towards kids ages 8-12, including “Take Back the Block,” “Not An Easy Win,” and the forthcoming picture book “We Are Joy.”
How Charlotte has influenced her work: “My first book (‘Take Back the Block’) is loosely based on Charlotte and features the skyline on the cover. It’s about a boy who’s trying to keep his community. It focuses on gentrification, social justice and friendship. It started from me watching this city change over the years, watching the places I used to love to eat when I was growing up disappear. It’s a love letter to the city, but in love, we can celebrate and also interrogate,” she says.
What makes the city a good place for writers: Its a large, welcoming community of writers.
- Giles recommends that children’s authors look into the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Carolinas chapter.
How we could step up our literary game: She’d like to see more local book festivals.
- “Charlotte really highlights sports, which isn’t a criticism, but what you spend time on is what people will pay attention to.”
How to support Charlotte authors: Purchase their books, or request them from the library.
- Leave a positive review for the book.
- Highlight it on social media.
- Tell a friend, co-worker, or neighbor about it.
- “All of these things help cultivate support for authors at a time when books are being banned and people don’t value reading the same way,” she says.
Her advice to aspiring writers: “Your perspective is important, and the way you release your art and your passion is unique to you. No one else can do it exactly like you can.”
A book she’d recommend: “The Creative Act: A Way of Being” by Rick Rubin.
Who she is: A forensic anthropologist, educator, and New York Times bestseller.
What she writes: Her “Bones” series inspired the TV show “Bones,” starring Emily Deschanel. The most recent installment, “The Bone Hacker,” came out last summer.
How Charlotte has influenced her work: “Charlotte is all over my work. Some of my books, like “Devil Bones,” are set entirely in Charlotte. Our heroine lives here in the Queen City. I use real places in my books, like Selwyn Pub, though I don’t use real places for where the bodies are found. And I poke a little fun at Charlotte, like I reference the intersection of Queens and Queens.”
What makes the city a good place for writers: “I’ve lived here since 1978. When I started to write fiction, I set my first book in Montreal, but when I went on to the second book, I thought, ‘Well, let’s set it here.’ Charlotte’s a cosmopolitan place, yet it incorporates some of the charm of the Old South.”
Advice to aspiring authors: “You can’t edit a blank page, so even if you’re not in the mood, just sit down and write.”
How to support local authors: “Go to your bookstores, particularly your independent bookstores, and buy books. Go to the library and pick them up, or get your books electronically.”
A book she’d recommend: “The Measure” by Nikki Erlick.
Who she is: an ER doctor-turned-novelist, writing instructor and speaker.
What she writes: Medical fiction like “The Queen of Hearts,” “Doctors and Friends” and “The Antidote For Everything.”
How the city has influenced her work: “The Charlotte library is a massive inspiration for me. I wouldn’t be a writer were it not for libraries, because I spent a huge portion of my youth in very rural Kentucky in a library.”
- Martin is on the Charlotte Library’s Board of Directors, and cites the new Main Library renovation as something that has her excited about Charlotte’s writing scene.
- The space will have robust offerings for aspiring authors, she says, including a writing studio.
What makes Charlotte a good place to be a writer: “There are a lot of great opportunities to network with other writers,” she says.
- She cites groups like the North Carolina Writers’ Network, Charlotte Lit, and Charlotte Writers Club as important resources for Queen City authors.
- “Then we have Verse & Vino, which is the big library fundraiser that draws New York Times bestselling authors. Park Road Books has a lot of book launches, and Queens University has a very good author speaker series.”
How we could step up our literary game: Getting on the national author lecture circuit — something the library is working on.
- “When the new Main Library opens, we’re going to have this phenomenal space, so let’s use it.”
How to support local authors: “Ask a local author to speak at your book club. I’ve spoken to probably 40 book clubs. There are some really vibrant ones in this area.”
Her advice to aspiring authors: “Be a reader. I can’t tell you how many messages I get from people who want to write a book but don’t read books. You pick up an instinctive understanding of story structure when you read a lot. It helps to hone your writing voice when you can contrast it to the authors you love.”
A book she’d recommend: “Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang.
Who he is: An emeritus professor of Shakespeare at UNC Charlotte and a New York Times bestselling author.
What he writes: Hartley has published more than 30 mystery, thriller and sci-fi titles for young readers and adults. He also writes under the name Andrew Hart.
- Notable works include “The Woman In Our House,” “Hideki Smith, Demon Queller” and several books co-authored with Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge, including the Sekret Machines series.
How Charlotte has influenced his work: Hartley set “The Woman In Our House” in a fictionalized version of Myers Park.
- “It’s very literally grounded in that community,” he says.
What makes the city a good place to be a writer: “You have the resources of a major city but can feel a little less hustled. Also, having access to UNC Charlotte means that if I’m writing about something and I get into areas where I don’t know a lot, I can find an expert and drop them a line.”
- He also notes the importance of Falstaff Books, a press headquartered in Charlotte focusing on fantasy and sci-fi.
How to support local authors: “Let them know that you liked the book. With millions of books coming out every year, publishing can sometimes feel like dropping a pebble in the ocean . When somebody reaches out to me and says, ‘I found a book you wrote 15 years ago in a secondhand store and I read it while my mother was in hospital and it kept me going,’ you can’t beat that.”
A book he’d recommend: “Witches Abroad” by Terry Pratchett.
Who he is: An on-air talent at WFAE and the host of the podcast “SouthBound,” which features conversations with notable Southerners.
What he writes: His memoir, “The Elephant in The Room,” came out in 2019. His next book, “Dogland,” which focuses on the Westminster Dog Show and the connection between dogs and people, comes out in April.
How the city has influenced his work: “One very simple way is that it’s given me venues to write.”
- Tomlinson cites the growth of Charlotte as important for authors, as the influx of coffee shops and breweries that didn’t exist decades ago provides them with a place to get out of the house and get creative.
- Some of Tomlinson’s go-to spots for writing include Mugs Coffee, The Giddy Goat, Summit Coffee and Amelie’s.
What makes Charlotte a good place to be a writer: “I’m not going to say it’s affordable, because obviously we have a lot of problems with affordable housing, but I’ll say relative to places like New York and L.A., it’s affordable. It has a good airport, so if you’re like me and need to travel for research purposes, it’s a good hub.”
- Tomlinson also says that the city doesn’t have a “hierarchy” of writers.
- “The writers that I know are very open to talking to up-and-coming folks. There’s no untouchable group. Everyone in my experience is accessible and enjoyable to be around.”
His advice to aspiring authors: Be an omnivorous reader.
- “Don’t just read the stuff you love. Read books, magazines, pamphlets. Read the wall of the bathroom when you go to a restaurant. Go to the library and pull three or four books that you don’t even know if you’ll like, just to see if you find something in there. That’s all fodder for ideas. We are the product of what we put into our brains.”
- “Go live a life. If you’re playing video games for six hours a night, you’re probably not going to have the kind of life that lends itself to being a writer because you’re not out in the world experiencing much.”
A book he’d recommend: “Why We Love Baseball” by Joe Posnanski.
Who she is: A four-time Emmy-award-winning journalist and WBTV anchor.
What she writes: Her three parenting/self-help/humor books stemmed from a series of ultra-honest Facebook posts about the chaotic-yet-joyful experience of life as a new mom. The series moves through major life events, like the birth of her third child and the pandemic.
- “Practice Makes Progress” came out earlier this year.
How the city has influenced her work: “This community is why these books were written. It’s other people who helped me through difficult times during maternity leave with my second baby, when I felt like I wasn’t ‘seen’ at all, though I was used to be connected every day on television. I hope my writing, in turn, has helped others.”
What makes Charlotte a good place to be a writer: “We’re a city filled with smart people who are curious and eager to discover new things, including new books.”
How to support local authors: Buying your books from locally owned businesses.
- “Park Road Books, CLT Find and Paper Skyscraper all carry books. Even if you can’t go into the store, if you call them, they can ship directly to you. It’s so easy to just go on Amazon, but buying locally makes a big difference,” she says.
Her favorite spot to write: Community Matters Cafe.
Her advice to aspiring authors: “If you want to get in shape, you don’t start by running a marathon. You walk for 10 minutes a day and then you keep adding. If you want to write a book, it’s not about writing 10,000 words at once. Start writing for 10 minutes a day.”
A book she’d recommend: “The Five-Star Weekend” by Elin Hilderbrand.
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