The final installment of Karen White’s popular TRADD STREET series just released and is available wherever books are sold. And for those in the Atlanta area, we’d love for you to join us at Fox Tale books tonight. We’ll be there with Karen, Susanna Kearsley, and Kimberly White.
I love old houses. I always have. Maybe it’s because all of my favorite books are centered around an old house with interesting architectural details: Jayne Eyre. Rebecca. Gone With the Wind. These houses were as much characters as the living, breathing ones. They were good at keeping secrets, and remained calm despite the volatile lives of those living within their walls. Their windows appeared to be the eyes of the house, watching as a silent witness to generations of drama, portals to traveling back in time. What’s not to love?
Quite a lot, according to my husband. He hates old houses. He sees them as a hole in the ground into which you shovel all of your money. I see them as a piece of history you can hold in your hand. I want to live in one again, and I will. Like everything in our marriage, I’m water and he’s stone. I will eventually wear him down. But I digress.
In the first book of my Charleston series, The House on Tradd Street, the protagonist of the story, Melanie Middleton, is a Realtor who specializes in selling old houses even though she secretly thinks the land they sit on would be better used as parking lots. Throughout the series, the restoration of Melanie’s house on Tradd Street provides the backdrop to each mystery, as well as to the growing and changing relationships between Melanie and a host of other characters—both the breathing and non-breathing kind.
Although it was hard putting my husband’s negative words about old houses into Melanie’s mouth, it was somewhat gratifying to watch Melanie learn, grow, and even change her opinion over the four-book series. I used my memories of living in a Victorian-era building in London while I was growing up—the twelve-foot ceilings, intricate cornice moldings, thick mahogany doors and leaded glass transom windows over the interior doors—to make Melanie eventually love her “goiter on the neck” even if I had to do so with her kicking and screaming. I also used recollections of creaks in the floors, the sounds of old pipes, and the things that went bump in the night to complete the entire old house experience.
When I first thought of the series idea, I thought I’d use the Garden District of New Orleans. It had all the elements I needed—tons of history, ambiance, beautiful architecture, and a host of residents who refused to leave even after death. But that was in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, and I knew that even though I was compelled to write about a post-hurricane New Orleans (which I did in 2011’s The Beach Trees), I had to find a new setting.
I’ve had a love affair with Charleston, South Carolina since I first visited almost fifteen years ago, so it was a natural—and even serendipitous—choice to use the Holy City (so named because of its many churches) as the backdrop for the series I call my Moonlighting meets Sixth Sense meets National Treasure. Besides being genteelly Southern and hosting a virtual treasure trove of old houses, it’s also usually neck and neck with New Orleans for the title of most haunted city in America. And so Charleston it was.
The fourth and final book in the series, Return to Tradd Street, was published on January 7th. It’s bittersweet saying goodbye to these characters and houses who have become my friends. But I don’t think this will be the last of my books centered around an old house. Old houses contain more than mere brick and mortar, plaster and wide-planked floors. They contain stories. Telling those stories, dear reader, is what I am compelled to do. And it’s certainly easier than convincing my husband to pack up and move into a rambling Greek Revival.