13 Women From The Southern US Pushing Fiction Forward
Despite the rich history that ranges from the Southern Renaissance to the Southern Gothic, literature from the southern United States is often overlooked. This list of women is continually working to make sure that doesn't stay the case, whether they're writing literary fiction, erotica, genre fiction, or something else entirely. If you're more interested in a specific kind of women's writing, consider taking a look at a list of some science fiction series' written by women.
Great Southern Women Writers
Interviews With Southern Authors
The publishing industry in the United States is primarily centered in large coastal cities like New York City. But that doesn't mean that the people who actually write the books were born there. In fact, there is an impressive history of writing from the South. From the 19th-century works of Mark Twain and Kate Chopin, to Southern Renaissance writers like William Faulkner and Zora Neale Hurston, to Flannery O'Connor's Southern Gothic, this region has repeatedly changed the face of literature.
In the time since, the region has produced authors that helped solidify the urban fantasy genre, that have redefined vampires, and that have pushed the world to consider its prejudices about small towns and the people they contain. Whether they've already made their mark or are just starting out, these are some women who are pushing fiction forward, in no particular order.
#1 is Tayari Jones. Her debut novel fictionalized the true story of the Atlanta Child Murders. These crimes provide a framework to dive into the inner lives of children at the beginning of the 1980s. Since then her books have tackled trauma, family, and justice in the South. Her work is largely set in Atlanta, Georgia, where she was born, and themes of race and identity are prominent.
#2 is Anne Rice. Most famous for her vampire novels that provided source material for Interview With A Vampire and Queen of the Damned, she's also a writer of erotica and Christian fiction. A New Orleans native, she has split her life nearly evenly between living in Louisiana and California. Her popular style isn't often studied in the halls of the academy, but she has left a mark on one of the most famous of the fictional monsters.
#3 is Kelly Link. Originally from Miami, Florida, Link is best known for her short fiction and editing. As a co-founder of Small Beer Press, she has provided a platform for a number of forward-thinking fantasy and science fiction authors. Her short story collection Get in Trouble ended up as a Pulitzer Prize Finalist in Fiction. She is especially notable for showing how genre fiction can be simultaneously playful and true to its characters.
#4 is Fannie Flagg. She might be best known as a contestant on Match Game or an actress on such shows as Harper Valley PTA, or as the author of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. She also served as the screenwriter for the film adaptation, Fried Green Tomatoes. Most of her novels focus on small town life. Flagg also lives with dyslexia, which delayed her ability to write for a number of years out of fear of social repercussions.
#5 is Libba Bray. Born in Alabama, she spent most of her youth in Texas. After graduation, she moved to New York to pursue a career as a playwright. She worked in publishing, advertising, and entertainment for a number of years before she published the first book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy in 2003. Since then she has largely written in the young adult genre, focusing on the stories of youths who are thrown into situations they can barely handle, and yet who persevere.
#6 is Laurell K. Hamilton. If Anne Rice changed the vampire from the stuffy depictions of Bram Stoker and Bela Lugosi to something more sensual, then Hamilton is in some ways her successor. Her Anita Blake series comprises dozens of novels about a necromancer who fights vampires. Early volumes had a noir style and helped take urban fantasy to the mainstream. As the years have gone on, the erotic elements have become more pronounced, which some readers love and others do not.
#7 is Alessandra Torre. Born in Tallahassee, Florida, Torre is one of a number of contemporary women authors of erotic fiction who are changing the way sexuality is explored in novels. Her books tend to feature strong, dominant men that allow women to open themselves up to new types of pleasure. While Torre isn't experimenting with form or crafting perfect sentences, she is reaching a mass audience in a way that directly impacts their lives.
#8 is Sue Monk Kidd. Best known for The Secret Life of Bees, she has written a number of novels that deal with race in the south, American history, and inspirational journeys. A Georgia native, she wrote primarily about her own spiritual journey prior to becoming a novelist. She began with a traditional relationship to Christianity before developing her own feminist theology.
#9 is Katherine Howe. This Houston, Texas born writer has worked in historical fiction, young adult literature, and even the real history of witchcraft in England and North America. She can trace her ancestry to Massachusetts in the 17th century, where two of her distant relatives were convicted of witchcraft. That has given a personal connection to her fiction that was even more apparent when she hosted a show about Salem for the National Geographic Channel.
#10 is Lisa Kleypas. Despite being originally from Texas, she was named Miss Massachusetts just two years before her debut novel was published. In the intervening year, she earned the title of "talented nonfinalist" at the Miss America Pageant in 1986. Her romance novels have repeatedly gained the attention of the Rita awards, a yearly ceremony hosted by the Romance Writers of America and one of the most prestigious titles in the field. She writes both historical and contemporary novels.
#11 is Sarah Addison Allen. From the twelfth most populous city in North Carolina, Allen is a cancer survivor and author of magical realist fiction. Her work brings the tradition most associated with authors like Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez to small southern towns. She uses the unrealistic elements to explore social dramas and relationships among family members.
#12 is Ann Brashares. Born in Virginia, she grew up in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and New York City. That New England pedigree means she focuses slightly less on the minutiae of small town life than others on the list. Her most famous book is The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. It's also a good example of her ability to set work all around the world while still focusing on important relationships between people.
#13 is Charlaine Harris. With the possible exception of Anne Rice or Laurell K. Hamilton, Harris might be the most influential writer on this list. Her Southern Vampire Mysteries series was adapted by HBO into the show True Blood, which both kickstarted readers' love of the urban fantasy genre and brought southern fantasy to television in a new way. Originally from Mississippi, she has spent time in Arkansas and Texas as well.