Karen White has lived in multiple places in multiple countries, but her writing roots are in Southern women’s fiction.
The New York Times best-selling author mixes mystery, romance and ghosts once again in Return to Tradd Street, which is being released this week. It’s the fourth novel in her Tradd Street series set in Charleston.
White will make two appearances in the Columbia area this month. She will be at a book signing at the Irmo Branch Library at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 12. She will read from her book and take questions from the audience at Books on Broad in Camden from 2:30 to 5 p.m. on Jan. 14.
Return to Tradd Street picks up the story of real estate agent Melanie Middleton and her fragile relationship with Jack Trenholm — the father of her unborn child. Amid the emotional turmoil, Melanie confronts the mysterious sound of a baby crying in the night, and the discovery of the skeleton of a baby in a christening gown in the foundation of her Tradd Street home.
This is officially billed as the final book in the Tradd Street series. Is it really final?
“It is,” White says, “although readers are so in love with these characters” that she hedges a bit. She leaves open the possibility that Melanie and Jack might someday pop up as secondary characters in future books.
This is White’s seventeenth book, and it is published by New American Library. Her first hardcover, The Time Between, was published last summer and made The New York Times best-seller list.
White started her first novel in 1996 “as a stay-at-home mom with two babies.” It took her three years to write that book “while the babies were napping.”
She entered it in a contest; one of the judges was a literary agent from New York. That led to a contract with a small, now-defunct publishing house.
“They paid me maybe grocery money,” White says. But it opened the door to her writing career.
Although most of White’s books are set in the Lowcountry, White has never lived in Charleston.
“You have to write what you love,” White says. And when she visited Charleston for the first time 15 years ago, “It was like home. I fell in love immediately.”
She is trying to convince her husband that they should move to Charleston from Atlanta. The main obstacle is that he frequently flies internationally on business, making the Atlanta airport a convenient point of departure.
So if the location for her stories is a part of the life she would like to live, are the people in her stories a part of her life, too?
“I write about characters I want to be,” White says. She says friends have said of the Tradd Street protagonist, “Wow, Melanie is a lot like you.” She likes the control of naming her characters (her husband picked the names for their son and daughter) and reliving her life through fiction.
“I get to play God,” she says. In an appropriately decorous Southern way, of course.
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