A mother of two beautiful children, a self professed World of Warcraft Horde playing geek, former English teacher and playwright, Joshilyn Jackson has been compared to Flannery O’Connell for the rich southern heritage that bubbles up from each of her novels. She’s been a Number 1 Booksense pick, a SIBA novel of the year winner, and finally hit the New York Times bestseller list earlier this month (July 2009) for the first time.
About the Author
Joshilyn Jackson lives in Powder Springs, GA; a community just outside of Atlanta. While living in the heart of the south, she unveils tapestries of deceit and treachery, murder and mayhem, and deep family bonds and struggles. Her beginnings in the literary world began by quitting college to act. After a few years of doing dinner theatre, she decided to be a playwright. Putting her focus to Modern and Medieval theatre, she went back to Georgia State to graduate with honors in English Literature. This led to moving to Chicago, IL to get her Masters degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago and to beginning teaching. She returned home to her kudzu covered state to marry, raise a family, and raise a ruckus in the southern literary scene.
Gods in Alabama
Her first book published, Gods in Alabama, is set in Possett, Alabama where Arlene Fleet comes to terms with promises made, lies told, and secrets revealed. Without going into the actual book and focusing on the author, Gods in Alabama was a breakthrough novel for Joshilyn Jackson.
When the question is asked whether Ms. Jackson puts a bit of herself or her life into her works, she replied “Sometimes odd little facts and memories and objects that have personal meaning show up in my fiction, tucked into odd corners. For example, I really do have an Aunt Niner, now deceased, and I stuck her old rocking chair in Mama’s room in gods in Alabama.” While the book had a very unladylike opening line, it was memorable and helped her climb above the slush pile making everyone who came across the book want to learn more about the character and the author.
Gods in Alabama was published in hardback April 13, 2005 with the ISBN 0446524190.
Fresh on the heels of her bestselling first novel came Between, Georgia in 2006. Jackson created her own Between, Georgia after passing by a sign to the literal Between, Georgia. A sort of Mayberry meets Romeo and Juliet, Between, Georgia focuses on the deaf community, family struggles, and a feud that may very well destroy the tiny town of 90 residents.
Did her life creep into this novel as well? She herself says “I wrote a child as a central character for the first time in Between, Georgia, and I can see elements of my son, my daughter and most all my niece in her.” This novel was a #1 BookSense pick as well, a status that earned the author BookSense’s first back to back #1 awards. In the audio book, it is she who reads the novel, an interesting part of her life she reveals in her wildly popular blog Faster than Kudzu.
Between, Georgia was published in hardback July 3, 2006 with the ISBN 0446524425.
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
The most recent novel, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, lovingly termed TGWSS (pronounced TOGWISS) on her blog, rocketed her to The New York Times bestseller list. When the death of a neighbor brings a life changing series of events for Laurel Gray Hawthorne, she is forced to look at her family, her husband, and the neighbor’s girl who mysteriously stopped swimming.
This time she sets the locale of her novel in Pensacola, Florida. Staying true to her southern flair for place settings, she’s now hit Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. One wonders if Louisiana is next. When asked about this book, she said “I tend toward an odd blend of humor and violence, and this book begins when a young girl drowns in Laurel’s backyard pool. In the fall out from that event, Laurel gets sucked into a twenty year old nest of secrets that no one, not her husband, her parents, or her friends, really want brought to light.”
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming was published in hardback March 4, 2008 with the ISBN 0446579653.
Joshilyn Jackson writes gritty novels that aren’t afraid to be messy, with characters that aren’t afraid to get dirty. She’s been influenced by the classics, citing herself to be a “rabid fan of great southern fiction: Flannery O’Conner and William Faulkner and Eudora Welty and Lee Smith.” For current favorites she cites Michael Chabon and Haven Kimmel as ones she adores. Now I wonder who is picking up pen to paper now and will cite her as an influence to their fledgling career?
This article appeared July 17, 2009 at Suite 101.