I am a writer of American historical fiction, and as a Southerner I write about my beloved South, a place as rich in culture and history as the soil that gave birth to and nurtured her. I hope that I do honor to both within the tangled webs of mystery and suspense woven through my stories.
My tastes in literature were shaped as an adolescent and early teen by writers represented by Max Brand and Zane Grey, and Luke Short and Frank Yerby and Frank Slaughter. Such writers provided my greatest reading pleasure during my formative period as a reader and today are the biggest influences on what I believe makes an entertaining story, and I am a story-driven author. I describe my novels as a blend of the beauty and violence of Frank Yerby’s Old South with the adventure and happily-ever-after of a Zane Grey western. I then spice the mix with a sensuous romance. But unlike Frank Yerby, whose endings did not always prove so, and like Zane Grey’s, whose did, I provide a happy ending. Life is tough for all of us, more so some than others. I read to escape, and I provide my readers the same opportunity to forget the strain and struggle—to rest, relax, and recoup if only for a while. Reality will intrude with the closing of the book—and other stopping points between its beginning and end.
So, I’m not big on wallowing in misery. Okay, that’s not true. The tale told must be worth telling, and that’s not going to be done without conflict, but I want the struggle and grief that I create to end on a happy note with the promise of a bright future.
|Epico Bayou by Charlsie Russell|
In five published novels, I’ve ranged my settings from eighteenth-century Spanish Natchez with my dark gothic, The Devil’s Bastard through the end of the nineteenth century (Epico Bayou and River’s Bend), all in the deepest of the Deep South, my home state of Mississippi. At present I’m completing a sequel to my latest novel Camellia Creek, a mystery driven by the exigencies and injustices of Reconstruction following the War for Southern Independence, the period when the United States made a fateful shift from our Founders’ Federal Republic to the dubious “advantages” of democracy. Aggression, tyranny—and the all-important resistance to both—make great fodder for fiction. I weave into these troubled times a mystery and a romance and characters driven, and sometimes swallowed up by, not only events out of their control but by self-imposed attempts to manipulate conditions to suit their purposes. Against such backdrops
are the personal conflicts often
conjured from the past and impacting the novel’s present. Old secrets and new
lies, lost treasure, unavenged murders, and “haints,” real or imagined,
demanding justice. In a nutshell, I write “escape” fiction.
|River's Bend by Charlsie Russell|
Given my settings and my genre, I categorize myself a niche writer, focused on the values that shaped my place and my people and, in turn, myself. But my stories will appeal to anyone who enjoys mystery, suspense, and in some cases, the subtle whisper of the paranormal, woven into a refreshing return to a more “original, non-contemporary” look at the South, her people, and her history.
And of course, there’s the romance and happy ending for not always happy times. Those always work, then as well as now.