Georgia-based author Karen White is known for writing bestselling novels based in the Carolina Lowcountry. But before The House on Tradd Street and On Folly Beach, one of her first was set in small-town Georgia. Less than 10,000 copies of Falling Home were printed in 2002, and it sold out within a few months, but it was never reprinted — making Karen White fanatics very unhappy.
“If you’d go on eBay, they were asking anywhere from $100 to $700 for a copy,” White says, “which is ridiculous considering it was originally like $5.99.” She says she received thousands of requests for a rerelease of the book.
“It was very discouraging, that whole experience with that publisher,” she says, “because I loved, loved the book, and I had so many letters from readers saying how much they loved the book as well.”
Luckily, the rights reverted back to White in April, her agent resold the book to Penguin, and she immediately started reworking it.
“I didn’t change the stories or the characters, because that’s what my readers loved the most about it,” White says. “But I would like to think I’m a much better writer now. When I was rereading the first edition, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this was ever published.’ ”
The novel follows New Yorker Cassie Madison, who returns home to Walton, Ga., to visit her father on his deathbed. He bequeaths the family home place to her, but while her head tells her to sell the house and return to the city, her heart urges her to stay.
“I call it my Steel Magnolias book,” White says. “There are a lot of Southernisms. It’s one of those books where you’re laughing and crying on the same page. It’s a very emotional book. The banter between the two main characters is really, really fun. It reminds me of Moonlighting with Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.”
Besides tightening the writing, White expanded it to include new perspectives.
“I wanted it to be more of a women’s story, so I added two points of view,” she explains. “It’s the story of three women now.”
Despite a number of awards and accolades, including time spent on the New York Times Best-Seller List, White maintains a humble attitude about her work.
“I don’t think that all of my books right now are perfect, and I’d rather not know if they’re not, unless I can do something about it,” she laughs. “There’s always room for improvement. The day I think I’ve got nothing to learn as a writer is the day I need to hang up my laptop. I’ve written 13 books. If I’m obsessing over 13 books, I’ll never get anything done.”
White plans to rework and rerelease Falling Home‘s sequel, After the Rain, soon — she recently got the rights back for that book as well. She’s also working on a book set in post-Katrina Biloxi, Miss.
“I love the Lowcountry, and most of my books are set there,” White says. “But I went to Tulane in New Orleans, so I absolutely love the city. It’s very similar to Charleston, and I think that’s why I love both cities. My father was born and raised in Biloxi and was a 1950 graduate of Biloxi High School, so I figured, why not?”
Book signing. Sat. Nov. 20, 2-4 p.m. Waldenbooks, 120 Market St. (843) 853-1736.