Ever heard of Southern Fried Fiction? Neither had I, so I chatted to the pioneer of this innovative genre, Mary Morony, to find out more!
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.
What I write I call Southern Fried Fiction. I explore very heavy topics—alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, racism, and sexual abuse, just to name a few. Despite the subject matter, I like to think I have a deft hand with humor so things rarely get too maudlin or hard to handle. It is a delicate balance. I used the dual narrative in the first book to juxtapose all manner of family dysfunction with a Sallee’s wide-eyed innocence and Ethel’s down to earth common sense.
What is your background in writing and how did you get in to publishing your work?
I have a B.A. in English with a focus on creative writing from the University of Virginia. I started my first book, Apron Strings long before The Help. It languished on my computer until I heard Katherine Stockett speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book. She relayed a story.
In one of her talks an audience member stood and said to her that the woman who raised her didn’t love her. She was paid to pretend that she loved her. After hearing that I had to publish my book. Raised by my family’s black maid, I knew for a fact that I was loved. The relationship of black domestic has been unfairly marginalized but from my perspective it deserves better and, as a righter of wrongs, I endeavoured to do so. Ethel my and Sallee, my protagonists are based on my relationship with Lottie the woman who raised me.
Tell me all about the Apron Strings Trilogy. What was your inspiration?
I was fortunate enough to be born into a highly dysfunctional family. In the South idiosyncrasies are a badge of honor, at least in my world. Being basically lazy—writing came easily—and fascinated by the characters that swarmed around my childhood household it was too easy to pass up.
Have you done any other work that you are particularly proud of?
Surviving my life with my sense of humor intact is a huge source of pride, as are my four remarkable children. I am the mother of four. My two oldest children’s father committed suicide when they were very young. My next child’s father died from a very virulent form of cancer before she was born. I’m happy to say the fourth child’s father still survives. We’ve managed to stay married for the last 30 years. Rather than feel sorry for myself, I chose to use what I learned from all of those life lessons to write my novels.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark Twain is my favourite southern author. I tremble at the thought of his wicked wit and biting satire turned on me but would loved to have been able to have collaborated with him in his early years. He got a little too grumpy toward the end of his life.
What does the future have in store for you? Have you got any exciting plans to develop it that you can share with us?
In January, I had the pleasure of visiting Kampala Uganda with a Young Living Essential Oil group. While there, I visited a NGO created to help young girls, 12-20 year-olds out of the sex trade. The girls gave a presentation for us. A few brave souls shared a tiny bit of how they came to this place called Rahab’s Corner.
I still cannot describe what happened to me without emotions and tears welling up. It was if I had been electrocuted, my whole body started to quake and buzz. Sitting still proved impossible. Simultaneous joy and abject fear rendered me speechless, as I fought back the desire to wail.
As soon as I was able to get myself together enough to speak coherently, I told my husband what had happened and what I thought it meant—I needed to come to Rahab’s Corner, get to know the girls, and write a book about them. Without hesitation he agreed, that in its self is God at work!
Not knowing why, I brought along copies of my three novels to Africa. I gave them to Moreen so that she might get a sense of my writing style and my ability to tell the girls’ stories. This project would segue beautifully with my previous work, as one of my major themes is redemption. Granted, I write about trauma in American families, but the effects of trauma and the healing power of redemption are the same the world over.
No stranger to intense drama and trauma in my own life, I am acutely aware of the healing power of story. Turning your personal horrors into a venue for healing not only cleanses the soul it changes the world, as Moreen’s- the founder of Rahab’s Corner-own magnificent story testifies.
The time seems so ripe, at least in the States, for a book like this. The advantage a book would make is twofold. It would not only help the girls heal by turning their tales into vehicles of healing for themselves and others it would shine the spotlight on the great work done at Rahab’s Corner and Pure and Faultless Foundation. I am so excited to be invited to come to Rahab’s Corner and to write Moreen’s remarkable story. I leave in July for as long as it takes.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?
My upcoming trip to Uganda is as far into the future as I can see.
Anything you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for the interview.
I’d like to thank Mary for taking the time to answer my questions; it has been truly fascinating to hear her thoughts. You can find out more about Mary and Southern Fried Fiction HERE.