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Guest Miranda James-Digging Up the Small-town Dirt

Jessie: In New Hampshire where we finally broke down and turned on the heat!

I met Miranda/ Dean James at the Berkley table at the Malice Domestic Agatha Banquet. I was new to the world of Berkley and he was already the super star he is today. I could not have been more fortunate in a dinner companion. He was gracious and welcoming and charming and funny. He put me at my ease without appearing to work at it. He is a total gentleman through and through. It is with great enthusiasm and pleasure I welcome him to the Wickeds today! 

Southern towns are probably no different from towns in other regions in the U.S. They have a distinct social hierarchy – dominated by either (or both) the ancestral aristocracy or the families with the most money. The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. Unless your family has lived in the town or its environs for at least three generations, you’re a newcomer. You don’t know why it’s always been done a certain way. And you may not have figured out all the nuances of hierarchy – like who will belong to certain organizations in town, who will get invited to important functions, who stands a chance of getting elected in local elections. If you can’t remember when John Henry Jones’ great-uncle Erasmus Smith was mayor and caused all that mess over the Rotary Club dinner sixty-seven years ago, well, you can’t really claim to be a native, now can you?

What’s really fun in these towns are the clubs, like the Junior League, the Garden Club, and the various men’s groups. Since I’m writing about two sisters from one of the original families in Athena, however, I decided to focus on one of the traditional women’s clubs you find in most towns, the garden club.

Miss An’gel and Miss Dickce, of course, are on the board – as they are on practically every board in Athena. Not everyone on the board has a similar pedigree, but they are women of position and some wealth. Every group has its own dynamics, and if something happens to upset the equilibrium, well, interesting things can happen.

Like having a prodigal son return – a prodigal son who was the most handsome, most charming, and most desired man in Athena forty years ago. What could possibly happen with this particular fox once more amidst the chickens? That was the inspiration for Digging Up the Dirt.

Readers, are you familiar with social hierarchies and nuances like the ones described? Writers, do you use those sorts of structures in your own work?

Miranda James is the New York Times-bestselling author of the “Cat in the Stacks” and the “Southern Ladies” mysteries. By day Miranda (aka Dean James) is a medical librarian in Mississippi. At other times Miranda spends time with two cats and thousands of books while thinking about the next murder (or two) to commit. Only on the page, of course.

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