Picture This – A Visit With Karen White

Today’s post by Karen White | @QuincyWhite2

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.

Karen White

Karen 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.

Harley House - where Karen lived during her stay in London

Harley House – where Karen lived during her stay in London

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 real home that inspired Karen's Tradd Street series

The real home that inspired Karen’s Tradd Street series

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.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

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8 Responses to Picture This – A Visit With Karen White

  1. Bonnie January 20, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    I have read almost all of Karen’s books, have met her personally in a book-signing event where I was the only early arrived ( therefore time for a one-on-one). A most gracious truly Southern gal, I will always read her words in any “story” she brings to us. Best of everything to you Karen White….I recommend all to get started reading your books!

  2. Ann Bresnan January 20, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    LOVE Karen’s books and am madly in love with this series!

  3. Linda Edwards January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I have read all Karen’s books & the Tradd Street series is what got me started on them. I love Charleston & it’s history. However old houses, be they Victorian, Country, Antibellum, etc., & antiques are a passion of mine.
    I am truly sorry to hear that this is really the last of this series as each book has keep me so entertained throughout it that I could not put it down until I finished it. I & many other of Karen’s followers can only hope & pray that she changes her mind & lets us find out what becomes of the newly weds, Mellie’s “gift” & the twins…will little Sarah Ginette inherit her mother & grandmothers gift? In the meantime we will all keep reading each & every new book as they are released.
    Congratulations on # 6, Karen….I’m sure it will be # 1 soon!

  4. Karan Wester January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Also, love Karen’s novels – especially attached to The Trad Street series. I am reading # 4 now – it is hard to let these characters go. Also in love with Charleston, S.C. so you can understand my attachment. I have walked down Tradd Street and all the other stretts in that area. We have stayed at a B and B on Meeting St. across the steet from Batery Park. Thanks you for your stories!

  5. Rita January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I feel such a bond to Karen since I met her at a House on Tradd Street signing at the Barnes & Noble in Mt. Pleasant. I can’t wait to get her new books, have luckily found some of the older ones, and love the teases on the new ones to come. Once you read one of Karen’s books, you will be hooked!!

  6. Lanie J. January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I just finished reading the final book. Loved the series. Thank you for sharing the picture of the home that inspired the book. All of her books are great. 🙂

  7. Jennifer Huelsebusch January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I absolutely love Karen’s books! The Tradd Street series is fantastic and I have recommended it to many friends. I am currently reading Return to Tradd Street and I don’t want it to end so I am trying to read it slowly!!

  8. Melanie Backus January 20, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Karen is new to me. Her books sound wonderful so I can’t wait to get my hands on them. Thank you for what you do.

    Karen, I love old houses and Charleston and New Orleans are two of my favorite places.

    melback at cebridge dot net

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