Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. As a travel writer, she jet sets to Europe, South America, and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But this perpetual motion—and her own scattered personality—catches up with her. When she stops in New York to pick up her next assignment, Julia discovers she’s on the verge of being fired.
With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, Julia is offered one last chance to rescue her career. She embarks on a journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage. During this spring tour of historic homes, visitors flock to the city and enjoy turn of the century architecture, delightful meals, and Southern hospitality.
Despite a series of mishaps, a trip to the ER, and one major wardrobe disaster, Julia soon realizes she’s fallen in love with Eufaula and her charming host, Shug Jordan. But when a real estate developer announces plans to turn the city into a tourist spot, Julia’s thrown off-balance once again. How could this happen? Is there a connection between Shug and the developer? And can Julia’s story help save Eufaula and the annual Pilgrimage?
I asked Lauren Clark a few (3) questions about writing Dancing Naked in Dixie and she was kind enough to reply.
Please welcome the talented Lauren Clark to the blog today
~Blog Topic: Eufaula, Alabama & the Pilgrimage~
- Is Eufaula a real town or fictional?
- What made you decide to write about this small town in Alabama?
- And can you tell us what made you decide to write about the Pilgrimage as a story line?
Eufaula, Alabama is a real place — a lovely, historical city — nestled along the Chattahoochee River and the Walter F. George Reservoir. The Creek Indians were the first inhabitants of the area, but Georgia men looking for fertile farm land decided to settle there in 1823. A steamboat wharf was soon established and the city became a center for cotton trade.
I’ve always loved Eufaula and the historic district with its sprawling green lawns and massive oak trees draped with Spanish moss. When I moved to Alabama from Upstate New York about ten years ago, Eufaula became one of my favorite places to visit. It was a short drive from my house, and the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon. Many people are drawn to Lake Eufaula and the nearby state park for bass fishing and a variety of water sports.
The city’s many antebellum mansions–built during Eufaula’s rise to prominence in shipping and trading–attest to the wealth and culture of the period. A large number of those homes exist today and have been restored to their original glory. Some of the buildings, like Shorter Mansion and Fendall Hall, serve as historic museums and are open to the public. Other mansions are owned as private homes; though many families welcome tourists during Eufaula’s annual Spring Pilgrimage and Christmas Tour of Homes.
The Pilgrimage is a special event to attend, especially during balmy April evenings when gas lamps light the streets and candles flicker in many of the mansion windows. Many people in the community also dress up in period costume (ruffled hoop skirts, gloves, long coats) to welcome visitors to Eufaula’s many landmarks. Live music is played on porches, sweet tea and desserts are served, and stories are told from the city’s many graveyards. Not only are quite a few of the mansions open to the public, but everyone can also tour exquisite churches, lush flowering gardens, the library, and other landmarks.
Even after I moved away, I thought that Eufaula and the Pilgrimage would make a lovely setting for a story. I wanted to take some of my own experiences as a Northerner who settled in the South and turn them into a story full of magic, secrets, love, and hope.
Much of Julia Sullivan’s fun and mishaps come from my own learning about the Deep South’s local customs and cultures. A decade ago, I’d never tried okra or collard greens, I’d never tasted sweet tea or chess pie. I wasn’t used to children addressing adults as ma’am or sir. I was genuinely tickled pink by the welcoming nature and friendly faces of everyone I met.
If you happen to visit Eufaula, Alabama’s historic district, and someone waves from a front porch on a summer evening, prepare to “sit a spell” and chat. It’s expected … and it’s a lovely way to spend time with friends.
It’s my hope that Dancing Naked in Dixie captures that essence and warmth for readers.
A little about the author
Lauren Clark writes contemporary women’s fiction set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with love, family and friendship, and the challenges that life unexpectedly throws at all of us!
Her characters are real women; smart and sassy, who tackle complicated issues with tenacity and intelligence. Readers will empathize and relate to her flawed yet likable heroines. A former TV anchor and journalist at WWNY and WTVY, Lauren’s stories allow us an insight into the excitement, drama and fast- paced world of media.
Lauren is a reformed news junkie, a non-reformed coffee drinker, and an official library geek. Her big loves are family, paying it forward, eight hours of sleep a night, and homemade macaroni and cheese. She lives near the Florida Gulf Coast where she is surrounded by family and and true-blue friends that inspire her writing and keep her sane.
Smart, Sassy Fiction with a Southern Twist