On Friday, July 31, I am scheduled for an interview in Tyler, Texas, on KETV and to sign my novel, Women of Magdalene, that afternoon at the Tyler Broadway Pavilion Barnes & Noble. Tyler is not so very far from the town of Mount Pleasant, where my grandmother was born in 1882. My mother, who will travel with me, and I have decided we to visit Mount Pleasant the day before going to Tyler, looking on the journey as our own Trip to Bountiful. My octogenarian mother has not revisited the city since the 1950s, and I have never been there. Now, I look forward to giving copies of my novels to the Mount Pleasant Public Library. My love of books, reading, and writing traces back to my mother and grandmother, and I would be thrilled to know my books are in the public library of my grandmother's home town.
After growing up in Mount Pleasant, my grandmother left to study nursing at Charity Hospital in New Orleans and later became head nurse at a hospital in Vicksburg. There, she met a young intern, who wooed her, in part, with books. During their courtship, they often read aloud to one another, and I have included a photograph of them reading together, taken in Vicksburg, 1910.
My mother raised me on stories of family in East Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, fostering my love of writing about the 19th century South. With a doctor and nurse as grandparents, I also became fascinated with medical history. And while I never met my great-aunt Addie of Mount Pleasant, who, following my grandmother’s lead, she became a nurse, herself. I feel a special affinity for her part in the family story. Addie treated women in a mental institution, tucked away in the piney woods of East Texas, and snippets of stories about her career influenced me in my writing of the Magdalene Ladies' Lunatic Asylum.