Gods in Alabama (Jackson) - Author Bio

Author Bio
Where—Fort Walton Beach, Florida, USA
Currently—lives in Decatur, Georgia

Jackson wrote Gods in Alabama after a journey up north. Much like her heroine, Arlene, she was born in the South, and according to her official biography, "raised by a tribe of wild fundamentalists."

Also like Arlene, Jackson eventually moved to Chicago, where she taught English at UIC. However, Arlene is no mere stand-in for the author. Although she is often asked if she based the character upon herself, Jackson is ready to admit that she does not have much in common with the promiscuous girl who may or may not be a murderer. In fact, when Arlene Fleet made her very first appearance in a short story titled "Little Dead Uglies," the narrator makes no bones about loathing her.

Nevertheless, Jackson became fascinated with the character. "She wouldn't leave me alone," she explained to readersroom.com. "She's such a TINY part of that story. A few sentences. But every time I would go back to work on that story, she would kinda glitter at me.... I KNEW she had a secret, and I knew she was something big, a novel waiting to happen. If only I had known what her secret was."

Jackson explored both the character and that secret in Gods in Alabama, and the results are a playful but dark dose of southern gothic humor. It also became Jackson's first published novel after two previous efforts failed to sell. Gods in Alabama more than makes up for any previous failures, though, as both a commercial and critical success and a No. 1 pick at Booksense.com.

Jackson's second novel, Between Georgia, once again finds the writer stirring up her southern heritage to create a sort of modern take on the infamous rivalry between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Once again, Jackson has crafted another unique and witty novel. Publishers Weekly has called Between, Georgia a "theatrical and well-paced Southern family drama" with "plenty of Southern sass."

In The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, her third novel, Jackson again reinvents the Girls-Raised-in-the-South novel. Quilt artist Laurel enjoys life with her husband and daughter in their serene Florida suburb—until the ghost of a drowned girl awakens Laurel and cracks the veneer of her charmed life. Library Journal referred to the novel as "life affirming."

• Jackson's friends have accused her of being "dead inside" because she isn't particularly fond of music. However, that did not stop her from fronting a band and singing PJ Harvey tunes when she was a graduate student.

• Before hitting pay dirt with Gods in Alabama, Jackson pursued a career in acting and even toured for a time with a dinner theater troupe.

• As well as being a writer of novels and short stories, Jackson has also made a name for herself on the theater circuit, penning such plays as Another Snow White and Screwing Lazarus.

Her own words:

I get depressed if I don't have a little animal or two clotting up the house. Right now we have gerbils that my kids named Hotshot and Snickers. I like to pretend I got them for the kids, but the truth is, I like the little blighters myself and am the one who plays with them and feeds them and such most often. We also have an enormous one-eyed Maine Coon cat named Schubert. I would fear for the rodents, except Schubert is entirely too massive to lumber to the top of the table where the gerbil house sits. This is a very low number of pets for me. My husband thinks it is PLENTY of pets, but I secretly want to add a dog. And a horse. And some lizards...maybe a little chinchilla.

I've always wanted to be a writer. My mother has a box full of books I wrote and published via the "Crayola and stapler" method.

I can't remember a time when I couldn't read—I've been doing it since before I had concrete memory. I learned accidentally before preschool by thieving my older brother's books and watching Sesame Street. I think that was one of the reason's I loved To Kill a Mockingbird so much. I first read it when I was a kid, and I identified strongly with Scout when she taught herself reading by sitting on Atticus's lap and looking at his newspapers.

When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, here is her answer:

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a note-perfect book. I think writers are people who process the world via story, and Harper Lee is the rarest kind of writer; she had something important to say, and she said it flawlessly in a single book. She set the bar on southern fiction. (Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)

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