As I write this, I’m sitting on the veranda of the clubhouse at the Robert Trent Jones Grand National Golf Course in Opelika, Alabama. It’s 95 degrees and the humidity is as thick as the cheese grits I ate for breakfast. Still, I’m enjoying my view of the 18th green. You see, it’s where a funeral service will be held for Ned Pinckney, a murder victim in my next book.
I’m spending a couple of days here in Opelika to soak in the unique atmosphere (kind of like all the grease my body is soaking up because I insist on eating fried food at every meal). I wanted authenticity and it’s authenticity I’m getting!
Everyone asks why I chose Opelika and I always say, “I didn’t choose Opelika. It chose me!”
Almost 18 months ago, I spent a lovely weekend in Alabama with my friend Jane, her mother Annelle and our mutual friend Wendi. All these ladies are ‘suhthuhn’ through and through. The hospitality they showed me still wraps around me like a soft worn blanket. I should call them up from time to time just to hear that accent. (“What accent?” they’d probably say. “We talk raht. It’s everyone else who doesn’t.”)
Anyhoo…during my visit, I learned of the town of Opelika. That darn word stayed in my head. “Opelika! Opelika! Opelika!” my subconscious shouted to me each day. The melodic and unforgettable word (which means Large Swamp) demanded its place in my book. Hell, it demanded to be in the TITLE of the book!
So, I had a title long before I started writing The Opelika Ladies Murder Society. And guess what? I named the main character Annelle… one, because she has such a cherished space in my memories and, two, it’s the kind of name – like Opelika – that takes a hold and won’t let go.
More atmosphere (and humidity) awaits me on my travels. Can’t wait to start injecting tidbits of Opelika life into the manuscript.