Welcome, Lauren. We're excited to have you here.
The inspiration for writing Dancing Naked in Dixie was the opposite of Stay Tuned, my first novel. The idea for Stay Tuned came about after a real-life fistfight between news anchors at a television station where I worked. (They were both fired!) For Dancing Naked in Dixie, the title came first and I built the story around it.
I had wanted to feature Eufaula and the Pilgrimage as a setting for one of my novels and it seemed the perfect fit. I created the character of Julia Sullivan, a travel writer with attention-deficit disorder. I wanted to see what this big-city girl would do when sent to small-town Alabama.
At first, when I decided a developer was going to try and ruin Eufaula's historic district by building condominiums, I had considered Julia discovering some locally made new cookie or dessert so delicious it would make people want to "Dance Naked." She could bring it back to New York City, share it with friends, and there would be a nationwide cookie craze or rush to buy the sweets. This would create an influx of money through tourism and job development and give the city enough revenue to fight off the developer.
However, as the story progressed, the baking creation turned out to be a better fit for PD, Shug's sister, who needed some softening around her sharp edges. By pursuing her dream of owning a bakery, we see more facets of her personality and how much she cares about her family and the Eufaula community. PD's Pillow Puffs become her signature treat and a significant way in which she contributes to the Pilgrimage.
With the tie-in for the title still needed, I looked at how Dixie explores the theme of bias and pre-conceived notions about culture and place. Julia throws a good-old fashioned hissy fit when she's pulled off a plum assignment and sent to Eufaula, so I stepped it up a notch and had her announce to her brand-new boss that she'd "rather dance naked" than go to Alabama for this assignment. (This also ties in nicely with some romantic tension in the last chapter.)
Eventually, Julia realizes that she was completely wrong about the Deep South, and along her journey, learns important lessons about herself, and grows as a person. You'll have to read the novel to find out how she does it and what changes her mind!
Like Julia, have you ever had pre-conceived notions about a place or part of the country? What happened when you visited? What do you think now?
DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE
Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.
With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she's offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.
Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?
The Best Butts in Alabama, the huge billboard above my head brags. A robust pink pig, dressed in blue overalls and a cowboy hat, winks down at me. Next to the hog’s turned up nose, royal blue letters read ‘Phil’s Bar-B-Q.’
Phil certainly knows how to make a first impression. As does Mother Nature.
The sunshine beats down on my shoulder through the window. Is it always this muggy in December? I swipe at my forehead with the back of my hand and do quick surveillance.
Where is the historic, elegant city I was promised in the letter? There is a normal-looking church across the street, a run-of-the-mill real estate business to my right, and a tiny hole-in-the-wall place called The Donut King, which seems to be doing ten times more business than the Winn-Dixie grocery store I just passed.
So far, all I see of Eufaula, Alabama is more in-your-face commercial than traveler chic. Of course, I’m not in the best frame of mind to become one with my surroundings.
After a lousy Thursday morning of sulking and a rushed packing job, I sent an RSVP with regrets for the fundraiser, gave away my tickets to the Met, left a voice mail for Andrew, and changed my ticket to an earlier departure.
Hours later, after fighting through JFK security, surviving the cramped flight to Atlanta, I spent the night in Buckhead, Georgia, picked up my enormous rented SUV this morning (it was either that or a red minivan), and began driving the three-and-a-half hours to reach my pinhole-on-a-map destination.
All to save my job.
Lauren Clark writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets.
A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends. Check out her website at http://www.laurenclarkbooks.com/.
Lauren will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour and to the host with the most comments.
Follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here: http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2012/04/virtual-book-tour-dancing-naked-in.html